Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Not List for the New Year

Today I finally finished baby proofing the upstairs. There is nothing like crossing off something from the "Big List of All Things", eh? Of course my children are two and five, but if someone visits with a crawling baby, boy oh boy, that baby is safe upstairs.

I hope my family doesn't mind pureed foods, because I am now ready for the next thing on the list: canning homemade organic baby food.

Maybe I missed the boat on that one. Besides, the first child hated (still does) pureed foods, and the second went from rice cereal to gumming steak in mere months. I cooked a few yams, stewed some apples, so I think that counts.

I have multiple lists swirling in my brain at all times. I think most women do, but for some of us, it is almost an affliction. Besides the Big List of All Things, there is the immediate list. The immediate list is the one that makes me feel like an insane robot left alone on a planet for centuries (the anti-Wall-E, if you will).

I have this thing about wasting no steps. It's something that stuck from my waitress days: Never return to the kitchen empty handed. Bring hot food out, clear dirty dishes back. Only now, instead of dishes, it's all housework, and I don't get tipped. As I walk down the hall I fish out the puzzle piece from my pocket that I picked up earlier and, in a single motion, swing open the toy cupboard, shoot it like a basket ball into the puzzle shelf, and re-latch the cupboard as I go.

It sounds efficient and mom-like, right? But today I needed to pee. I went to the bathroom and found the toilet less than pleasing. I have a five year old boy, need I say more? So I cleaned it first. I keep a stack of what I call "pee rags" in the cupboard handy. Then I took the rag, along with the pile of clothes "someone" left on the bathroom floor, to the adjacent laundry room.

Here's the problem. A normal person would just go pee first. I on the other hand, upon finding myself in the laundry room, felt the urge to "swap out the laundry" i.e., put a load in the dryer, and start a new load in the washer, before I returned, clean towels in hand, to the bathroom. No wasted steps, see? By the time I'd loaded the washer though, I'd forgotten my original bodily need. The moment I heard the Whoosh of the washer, though, I remembered that I really had to go.

I made it, and as I had more than a few moments to reflect, I decided that this immediate list, and the Big List of All Things, both needed to chill.

My husband would laugh if he read that last sentence. He would say, "You can't do it," not in a mean way, but as a way to challenge me. This, from the man that says every New Year, "I resolve to not make any New Year's resolutions," and thinks it's funny. Every year. He and I have a difference of opinion of what a "day off" means, but the truth is, I need to learn how to do nothing. When you are travelling at light speed, you miss the rainbows.

So instead of New Year's Resolutions, I'm making a Not List.

#1 is an easy one: I am not going to feel pressured "as an author" to twitter or facebook. If I want to say something or respond to someone, I will, but I haven't found any of this glorious social media to have an impact on my supposed "platform" or to make many meaningful connections. A few, sure, but mostly it takes away time I need for writing, sleeping, or relaxing, all things that are better for my health and well being than tweeting about brisket.

#2  I am not going to nurse my daughter for much longer. That is a tough one for me, but it's disturbing my sleep too much. It hit me on the night of her second birthday this week (yeah, I'm one of those la leche mamas). While she was nursing, she paused, and with the boobie still in her mouth said, "Back kick." Assuming I heard wrong, I repeated, "Back kick?" She then nodded and proceeded to show me her back kick.

Apparently, while nursing, she was mulling over how to perfect her Tae Kwon Do. While I say 'Kudos to you, my martial arts baby', it does make it perfectly clear that nursing is no longer food, nor even comfort at this point: it's a coffee break, hold the coffee, stet the milk.

#3 I am not going to post on this blog more than once a week. Ooh. Another tough one. In part because I feel like I have so many things I want to post about, and also because "they" always say that you must post at least three times a week, if not five, to have a successful blog. I'm not sure how "success" is measured, but I do know that I have other projects I want to put energy into, and would rather make one good post each week and have fun with it.

#4 I can't say I am not going to make lists. I'd need years of therapy to throw out my legal pad, but I am going to mellow out on both the immediate list and the Big List of All Things. I probably should start by changing the name of the Big List.

I know, that last one wasn't a "Not". In fact I've sat here for 15 minutes and everything I tried to write was an "I am" instead of an "I'm not". The moment I say no to a few things, a world of possibilities opens. Think of what I can accomplish when I master doing nothing?

What do you say, are you with me? What's on your Not List this year?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Big Fat Ribeye

The first thing I tried from my big box of Charbroil goodies, was their "Basic Rub" on a big fat ribeye steak. Why a steak? Let me tell you, honey. The rain in the past week was torrential. I know you might think that Seattlelites are used to rainy days, right? But downpours with wind storms and flooded basements aren't our usual cup of rainwater. Usually it's more of a constant drizzle, or as I like to think, a refreshing mist that pairs well with coffee.

Not last week. Did you notice the lack of posts? That was because we were busy shopvac-ing hundreds of gallons of water out of our basement, pulling up carpet pad, and moving fans around the rooms.

There were a few breaks in the flood, and that's when I ran out to buy some steaks for the grill.

It was only fitting that we grilled them on the Charbroil infrared.

I went light on the rub, in part because the first ingredient was salt. I should have used more, but instead sprinkled a little afterwards.

The result? Delicious. The rosemary in the rub is finely chopped, so you don't get bits of herb in your teeth (I hate that). The rub wasn't too salty, nor was there any one flavor that stood out too much. It wasn't too spicy. It was, well, basic, and basic is all I want on a steak. I want to taste the meat cooked over a flame.

My only critique thus far is that the packaging is a little plain. We get a little wild in barbecueville with our names, puns, and graphics. The Charbroil line is understated. Nothing is named "Hot Mama's Tongues of Fire" or "Billy Bob's Big Butt Rub", but I'll forgive the plain Janeness.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas from Charbroil

I love mail. Especially boxes or thick bubble envelopes. Usually that means a book I've ordered has arrived. But the other day a big box arrived at my office. I picked it up and shook it a little.

"I wonder what it could be?" I said to my catering manager.

"Why don't you just open it?" He said, dryly, handing me a box cutter. Clearly I am easily thrilled. I don't get out much, unless it involves a bouncy house or monkey bars.

Out of the blue, the folks at Charbroil sent me a HUGE box of barbecue goodies - spice rubs, marinades, sauces, and even a bag o' brine. 

I've already tried out a few things. I'll post them over the next month. The very first thing I did was sprinkle a little of that "Taste of Sizzle" basic rub on a big juicy steak, then I threw it on the ol' infrared grill.

I'll show you those pics next. I'll also not open every single thing so we can have a little giveaway in a bit.

Thank you, Charbroil! I needed a surprise, truly. Merry BBQ Christmas to you to.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Soup Week Round-Up. Recipes from friends

The minute I posted about Soup Week on facebook, a cavalcade of responses came in. Seems like everyone was making soup. Italian Bread Soup, Butternut Squash Soup, Matzoh Ball Soup and so many others. I decided to post a few recipes from friends as my final post for Soup Week.

Both these women are from the old neighborhood. One rode trikes with me, the other was my neighbor. And both of these women know a thing or two about cooking. Neither take short cuts in their recipes here, and the extra time to make stock from scratch, as well as the noodles or matzohs, make them truly special.

Cheryl shares her homemade Chicken Noodle Soup with hand made noodles on her own blog. The hand made noodles look amazing and easy. I like her suggestion to try it with grilled chicken too!

Sara shares her homemade Matzoh Ball Soup recipe here. She made it during Hanukkah, but it reminds me to make this soup at other times. I love Matzoh balls! Her picture is above. Here is her recipe, adapted from “Grandma Florrie’s Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls”, from the New England Soup Factory Cookbook by Marjorie Druker and Clara Silverstein.

Sara Webster – Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls

Matzo Balls

7 eggs separated
1 tbsp kosher salt divided
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 ¾ cups matzo meal
2 ½ tbsp club soda (see notes)
2 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley


One whole chicken (6 lbs) -or- 3 lbs of chicken thighs*
1 beef bone (or veal bone)
2 onions – yellow or sweet – pealed and diced
4 ribs celery diced
10 carrots peeled and sliced
12 cups water plus additional as needed
1 large sweet potato peeled and diced
2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley

For Matzo Balls – fill an 8 quart pot three quarters of the way with salted water or chicken stock (I used water). Bring to boil.

Place the egg whites in a mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt. Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
In separate bowl mix together the egg yolks, salt, oil, matzo meal, club soda, onion powder and parsley. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Place in refrigerator for 15 minutes. Using your hands roll the batter into walnut-size pieces. Drop the matzo balls in the water and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 35 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon. 12-15 matzo balls.
For Soup
In large stockpot combine boil the chicken, beef (or veal bone), onions, celery, and carrots. Add the water and salt. Bring to boil over medium high heat. Remove any foam that rises to the surface using slotted spoon or strainer. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 2-4 hours. If the liquid becomes too concentrated, add more water during the cooking time. Add the sweet potatoes and parsley. Simmer for additional 45 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove chicken and beef soup bone (discard). Pull skin of chicken and remove chicken meat (as much as you can) – toss carcass and place chicken meat back into the soup. Serve soup with matzo balls floating on top.

Notes: Original Recipe called for 3 lbs of chicken thighs, I used a whole chicken. Thighs have more flavor, but I like working with whole chickens – so I’ve adopted that change. Original recipe cooked for nearly five hours – I was able to do in about 2.5 hours and still very good. I also skipped the club soda step the second time I made it and worked fine. Club soda will make the matzo balls very light and they float better but I didn’t notice this as problem by omitting the soda.

Thank you, friends. And if you readers still need "more soup for you", here are some of my past soup posts to try.

Smoked Turkey Soup

Chicken Soup with Rice (is nice)

If all else fails, throw it into a pot and stir. Happy soup making everyone!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Quick Chili with Pulled Pork, Smoked Peppers & Black Beans

Quick Chili is practically an oxymoron, but I like to keep ingredients on hand to whip up a batch on demand if need be. True chili should be cooked slow, letting all the flavors of the spices infuse into the meat and beans.

Like barbecue, chili fires a passion in people that can beat the heat in the chili pot itself. Some swear no bean should enter the pot. Others declare beef to be the only meat allowed. Everyone has their own idea of what spices and flavors make the best batch.

This chili is an excellent cheater chili. It's not what you'll enter into the chili cook-off, but it's a great recipe for when you think, "Mmm. Chili sounds good," at 4pm, instead of 10am.

Of course, your larder may not contain the same things as mine. I almost always have the following ready to go:

Leftover smoked pulled pork, in freezer. Leftover brisket or other meats work well too.

Smoked peppers (or whole dried). We smoke a mix of habaneros, poblanos and jalepenos at Smokin' Pete's BBQ for our barbecue sauce. Smoking the peppers gives them another boost of flavor, while retaining their natural flavors. Good quality chilis are the most important part of creating the flavor base.

Canned beans. Black beans, kidney, or navy. Beans are the biggest time constraint with chili and the best way to cheat when time won't allow an all day affair.

Everything else is an accessory to the chili pot. As long as you have the power trio above, you can make this quick chili. Even though I'd have a hard time making chili without cumin and Mexican oregano, I'm of the opinion that chili can be made with just about any combination of spices.

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 T ground cumin
2 T smoked or dried chilis, preferrably ground by hand, in mortar and pestil or coffee grinder
2 cloves garlic
2 T Mexican oregano
1 T kosher salt
1 tsp ground ginger (optional)
1 tsp tumeric (optional)
12 oz pulled pork
1-2 cans black beans (or kidney)
1 cup stock
1 small can of diced green chilis
1/4 cup tomato paste
Grated cheese (optional)

1. Sautee onion in olive oil. Add spices and stir until onion cooks nearly clear.
2. Add pulled pork, beans and green chilis. Stir until ingredients incorporated. Turn down to medium low.
3. Add stock and tomato paste and simmer for 30 minutes or more.
4. Serve with grated cheese or whatever else you like with your chili.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Brisket Vegetable Soup

This simple soup can be made with meat of your choice. I happen to have left over brisket in the fridge, and love the full flavor a little beef can bring to a vegetable soup. I like to keep store bought chicken and/or vegetable stock in the coffers so that I can always make a quick soup.

With stock from scratch you can infuse more layers of flavor, but this soup tasted like it had simmered for hours after only 730 minutes.

3 cups chicken broth or stock
3 cups water
2-3 celery stocks, sliced fairly thin
1 cup sliced carrots
3 cloves garlic
1 cup other vegetables in the fridge, chopped. Broccoli stems are nice for soups. They have more flavor than the crowns, and often get left behind to wither in the "crisper".
3 cloves garlic
Herbs of your choice
Kosher salt to taste
1 cup chopped leftover brisket. This particular brisket had a little sauce on it, which added a flavor layer. Use a little more tomato paste if your meat is unsauced.
Tomato paste - about 4 tablespoons.

1. Chop vegetables. Pour water and stock or broth into pot and turn up to medium-high.
2. Add celery and carrots. Turn down so that the soup is just under boiling.
3. After 10 minutes or so, add other vegetables that may take less time, salt, herbs, and garlic. Let simmer.
4. Prep the brisket. Using leftover barbecue meats in soups is wonderful, but you need to trim off the visible fat when cold. For the brisket, I originally trimmed it cold, then made the chopped brisket with sauce. Once it cooled, I removed any visible fat. After I put the leftovers in the soup, I skimmed again for oil on the surface (made me feel like a BP worker).
5. Add brisket and tomato paste. Simmer until ready.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Colorful Winter Beet Soup

This soup was fun to make with the kids. They liked playing with the colorful juices and making beet prints on paper. I left the beets fairly large and chunky. You may prefer yours with a finer chop, or even pureed at the end and served with a dollop of sour cream.

Fine. More for me. I love beets. I'd never thought of using the beet greens, though, until I had our Russian neighbor's beet soup. The beet greens add so much flavor, I'll never chuck them in the compost bin again. Using the many colors of organic beets available this time of year, this soup is a visual, as well as tasty feast.


1 onion
6-8 beets, red, orange and yellow
2 T dried thyme
1 T ground ginger
Chopped tops (beet greens), thick stems removed
3 cups vegetable stock, 2 cups water
Fresh dill ( a few large stems that you won't eat, plus some finely chopped sprigs)
Salt and pepper as you go.

Sautee chopped onion in olive oil. Add sliced beets and stir in dried herbs. Add in vegetable stock and water and bring to a boil. After 5 minutes, turn down to low. Let simmer until beets are al dente. Add in fresh dill and finely chopped beet greens. Cook for another 30 minutes or so. Salt and pepper to taste along the way.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Get ready for...Soup Week

I've decided to make this soup week. I could tell you it is because soup simmers one's soul in the winter, melting the blues from the inside out, (or that eating soup apparently makes you write syrupy prose), but the real reason I'm dedicating the week to hearty broths is because of last week: I was stuck in the house for three days straight with two sick kids.

Did you notice? No posts last week. I was going to do that cheat thing you can do with blogs and type in a different day for "publish" than when I actually did, but then I thought, why? This is my life. It's full of interruptions, and often, the interruptions are better than what I was supposed to be doing. 

I will say this, though, taking care of kids all day is way more work than going to work. At work, I can make my list, coffee in hand, and then proceed to get the work done. How I love to cross things off with a big thick Sharpie, or a fancy Pilot pen.

With kids the satisfaction has to come from the process. Nothing gets crossed off. In fact, you find yourself doing the same task over and over again. If I had a dollar for every pen without a cap I picked up off the floor...

After awhile, you start coming up with projects that take a lot of time. Like soup.
I was determined not to make sick fest a video fest. They still watched plenty of movies (I'm no saint), but we also made dozens of glittery Christmas ornaments, decorated the tree, read piles of books, did and undid stacks of puzzles, powered through our teetering cupboard of games, and my son even had me re-do the chore list so he could pick up toys for a sticker (I'm still flummoxed and tickled by that one).

If I've painted too lovely a picture, I also let the kids set "traps" all over the house, said "Sure!" when they wanted to chop up ice and chalk on the fireplace, and on the longest day, barricaded myself in the office armed with a glass of wine to check e-mail. But that was day three. You understand, right?

So I'll share a few soups this week. Easy soups. Soups you can make with a 1 and 5 year old. Immune system boosting soups to help barricade your body from the germs. And soups to remind you that giggles and togetherness and wonder are all far more satisfying than crossing off your To Do list.

What is simmering on your stove?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Week, Day 4 (and 5, 6, 7): I Am Thankful for Family

Thanksgiving day at the Reinhardt's isn't what you would call normal. For one, we go to work. Eric started about 4:30am. I followed after dropping off the kids to our village - grandma and grandpa. Then we proceed to shell out turkeys and complete dinners to the masses.

The kids know the drill. They know we'll arrive about 3pm, laden with food to add to the feast already in progress. Our kids love their grandparents, and the rest of their village at Thanksgiving. Uncle Boone and Aunt Mimi were there early, cooking dinner as early as 6am. As soon as I told our baby girl she was going to see her uncle and aunt, she joyfully exclaimed,

"Me, up, weedoo, bo bo Boon!"

Literally translated, that means, "Me up (on) Uncle Boone's shoulders!"

Uncle Boone has big, broad shoulders. Baby girl rates every guy she meets based on how good his shoulders are. After Da Da, Uncle Boone, our neighbor across the street, and Grandpa are her favorites.

Before we showed up, my other local brother Mark arrived with his son, big kid cousin Zach, who played chase and picked up baby girl till she giggled, and blocked our son's Tae Kwon Do moves without complaint. Long time friends joined us, as did Aunt Mimi's parents. Everyone brought a dish and a smile. E-mails from Eric's family connected us from afar.

I am so thankful for our family. We couldn't do this without them, both literally (try finding a babysitter on Thanksgiving!), and emotionally, with their constant support and love and laughter.

Thank you family. I feel up high, right there on your big, broad Weedoos.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Week, Day 3: I Am Thankful for Turkey!

What can I say? Thanksgiving dinner is my favorite meal. You would think that after managing over 100 turkey orders, many of which are complete dinners for 6-12, that I might be sick of turkey. I know Eric is. He eats steak on Thanksgiving. But I love turkey with all the trimmings.

I also am truly thankful that we have such wonderful customers that order turkeys from us. Otherwise November would be a bit of a bust. It's just not the month that screams "BARBECUE" to most folks, and without our Thanksgiving orders, we'd be better off staying at home.

So thank you. To all of you who ordered this year, or in past years.

We're smokin' in the snow for you.  Now cross your fingers it doesn't snow on Thanksgiving day.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Week, Day 2: I Am Thankful For Neighbors (and their homemade chutney!)

I have some wonderful neighbors in our little hood. We have an interesting street. It's kind of the intersection of many parts of Fremont. Part arty/funky, part 20's somethings/apartment dwellers, part families with young kids, and part...downright sketchy.

It's the sketchy part that has brought the neighbors together. Banding against the crime literally happening in front of us, we've developed a pretty vigilant neighborhood watch without getting vigilante.

We've fought the crime around us by getting to know our law officers, speaking with city council members, and by banding together at barbecues.

Yep, I even fight crime with barbecue.

At the heart and soul of this group are two folks named Sally and Robert. They are our block watch captains, and two of the nicest people you could meet. While they keep us together by the e-mail loop, they create a sense of neighborhood just by walking their dog and saying hi.

A few weeks back, Sally and Robert brought me over a jar of Robert's homemade chutney. Just 'cause. I've been meaning to post it as a recipe with lentils that I made with it, but thought I'd share the recipe today.

As we bustle around getting ready for Thanksgiving day, hopefully we'll all have the opportunity to stop and say hello to our neighbors, at the grocery store or on the street. I know these two have taught me that you can stop crime, and build incredible connections just by being neighborly.

Here is Robert's chutney recipe. He adapted it from a Mango Chutney recipe from their South Florida days, and believes the recipe is originally from the Beach County Extension Home Economics office in West Palm Beach.


2 cups vinegar

5-1/2 cups sugar (Robert substituted brown sugar for half of this amount)

10 cups green mango slices (Robert substituted about 12 cups of green tomatoes figuring they're more watery than mangoes)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped green ginger root (Robert used regular ginger root)

1 clove garlic chopped fine (Robert added the equivalent of an extra 2 or more cloves)

3 cups seedless raisins

1 large onion sliced

1/4 cup fresh orange peel

2/3 cup blanched chopped almonds if desired (we did
4 red chili peppers w/ seeds removed -- Robert did *not* use chili peppers in his batch

This chutney is good by itself, but I used about half of a jar with lentils and it made a delicious and seasonal side dish.

Chutney Lentils
8oz fresh chutney (above)
1 cup lentils, rinsed
2 12 cups water
1 tsp. kosher salt

Put lentils and chutney in water and boil for 3 minutes. Turn down to simmer for about 45 minutes, or until lentils are soft.

(I added this after I first posted).
Incidentally, both Sally and Robert are journalists and free lance writers.

Robert writes for InvestigateWest ( His long bio is here: You can follow him on Twitter:
He is a "veteran journalist exploring new frontiers in investigative reporting, particularly on the environment. Board member, Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ)."

Sally is a freelance writer for numerous publications. Her AOL Green Police column is here:, and she's on Twitter at

She also volunteers for a nonprofit news site started by laid-off staffers of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Check out their work and say howdy to your neighbor. With the web, we're all neighbors now!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Week, Day 1: I Am Thankful For Salt

I'm thankful for so much, that I thought I'd put a few of them down this week. To start, since we have vats of turkeys in the brine right now, I am thankful for salt.

It's just a little thing. I should put down family and love and all the big stuff. And I will. But tonight as I was putting the kids down to bed, this idea of salt popped into my mind. There are worlds crammed inside each little grain of salt.

Salt is pretty amazing when you think about it. It almost seems conscious the way it equalizes itself. That's why brines work. As long as your salt solution is saltier than the turkey or other meat is naturally, the meat will draw in the salt around it until it's all even Steven. The water and other liquids in your brine just piggy back on the salt.

Salt is essential for life on this planet, yet too much can kill ya. We all know that it's a pinch of salt, and a pound of prevention, right?

Humans have been using salt to preserve foods and mining salt as far back as 6000 BC. It's our first spice, our first flavor enhancer, and it indubitably has saved lives and helped civilization advance because of our ability to preserve of meats and other foods.

Salt water makes up over 97% of the earth's water. Less than 3% of the earth's water is drinkable. But that means 97% of the earth's water is perfect for brining Thanksgiving turkeys! OK, not really, but speaking of that....

If you are smoking your turkey, I highly recommend brining it first. The extra water will help the turkey stay moist during the smoking process. The salt will add flavor. Don't worry about adding a bunch of other ingredients to your brine. Too much fuss can spoil the broth. Keep it simple.

I'll leave this salt ramble with some quotes I found browsing the ol' internet. I've verified none of these, but even if they aren't totally correct, I like the sentiment.

I'll start with a quote from a very early cookbook, dated around 350 BC. Archestratus nailed it right here:

"Many are the ways and many the recipes for dressing hares; but this is the best of all, to place before a hungry set of guests a slice of roasted meat fresh from the spit, hot, season'd only with plain, simple salt....All other ways are quite superfluous, such as when cooks pour a lot of sticky, clammy sauce upon it." - Archestratus

So true, Archestratus. Here are a few more words from wise folks around the world.

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." Pythagoras
"The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea." Isak Dineson
"Don't slaughter more pigs than you can salt." French Proverb
"If there are two cooks in one house, the soup is either too salty or too cold." Iranian Proverb
"Bread and salt never quarrel." Russian Proverb

And finally, from the father of the American foodie himself,

"Where would we be without salt?"
James Beard

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Recipe: Faux Burnt Ends

As promised after my rant about our trainee at the restaurant that cut off the burnt ends of the brisket and put them in the scrap pile (breathe, Julie, that's it, inhale, hold it, exhale....), here is a recipe for "faux" burnt ends.

If you see burnt ends listed on a restaurant's menu, by the way, I'll betcha ten bucks they aren't the real deal. Do the math. Giant 8-12 pound brisket, with two bitty ends that everybody wants. Well, many of us do. There is a reason why we don't offer brisket burnt ends at Smokin' Pete's. I regularly steal them for my lunch.

There has to be a perk for all this, right?

Faux ends are quite tasty, and a great way to use the fattier part of the brisket, the point, or deckle.

The process is simple. Cut up a chilled brisket, or the deckle portion of one into end-sized chunks. If you smoke the whole packer, separate the deckle or point to chill fully before you cut up into pieces. Trim the larger channels and caps of fat. (If what I just said doesn't make sense to you, here's a review of brisket terminology).

The shot below is of a half chilled brisket, right at the midway where grain of the point runs opposite the flat. If you have difficulty carving a brisket, try practicing on a chilled brisket. The meat grains and fat channels are so much clearer when it's cold, that it can be a great learning tool.

Lightly re-season the pieces with a rub of your choice. Let me repeat, lightly, and I would suggest you use no salt in your rub, especially if there was salt in the rub from the first round. The first time I tried to make faux ends, they were way too salty. Toss in a thin barbecue sauce. Again, go light on the sauce. Otherwise the pieces won't get a crispy crust like the real deal.

Put the brisket pieces in a foil pan and put back in the smoker for about 2+ hours. Stir once after about an hour. Keep the smoker on the low side of slow- about 180 degrees, but get it good and smoky.
Remove once the bits are a little bit crispy like the ends you love.
Burnt ends are excellent with slaw on a sandwich, or a perfect flavor punch to chili and stews.
I prefer to snitch at them with my fingers.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving week at Smokin' Pete's means we are drowning in gravy and are up to our elbows in brining turkeys. I'm working on a post about turkey this year, but thought I'd stall a bit and share my posts from last year.

The first post is about Brining. I highly recommend brining your turkey, especially for smoked turkey.

Here is a Sage-Rubbed Smoked Turkey with a Maple Glaze recipe we did last year that was lick your fingers good.

This post is about how to plan for feeding a crowd. There is math in this post, but don't worry, I walk you through it.

I also talked turkey with Diva Q pitmaster Danielle Dimovski. That was before she became the superstar she is today, competing on the BBQ Pitmasters show among other TV appearances.

A final post last year was a list of further resources for preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Enjoy the posts. Since I covered a lot of bases last Thanksgiving, I may just mix it up a little this year.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New things shakin' at She-Smoke

I've been shakin' things up here at the She-Smoke blog. Part of why I posted so little last month, aside from us being freakin' busy at the restaurant with catering, was that I need some time to ponder the direction of this little corner of mine.

I know I overthink things. Just put up a damn recipe, Julie, you say. And you're right. But now that the book has been out for over a year, and the initial promotional frenzy has settled. I want to expand this blog to have more resources in terms of links to other sites, equipment, and news.

To start this, I've added some pages to this blog. The link-o-rama page will take me awhile, but I've started adding equipment and books I like to the BBQ Store page. I chose to "monetize" with Amazon, not for the money, but because it makes it easy to find what I'm talking about. I don't have to go track down links. If I make a six pack of beer at the end of the year, I'll be thrilled.

Please check in the next few months and tell me what YOU would like to see here. I have a ton of resources I know I want to add, it's just a question of time, so I'll add things slowly.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Brisket Burnt Ends

I need to rant tonight. I left the restaurant earlier and our new cook trainee did something that still has my jaw dropped down. Not in a good way. I noticed he sent out a brisket plate and that there was a pile of the brisket burnt ends on his cutting board.

"What's this?" I asked him. "Why didn't you put this on the plate?"

"Um, well, I..." he began.

Turns out this wasn't the first time dude CUT OFF THE BURNT ENDS AND PUT THEM IN THE SCAP PILE.  The burnt ends. The best freakin' part of the brisket, in my opinion. Wasted.

I gave him my standard lecture about waste, walked away, and then came back after a few moments of reflection.

"This is the gold! People ask specifically for these little bits of heaven. You scrapped the best part of the brisket!"

I wish I knew whether any of it sunk in. It's one of the greatest challenges of running a restaurant: you are only as good as your weakest employee. I'm not saying he's weak, he's a good guy actually, but he's a greenhorn.

As business owners, we can't do everything. If we are always working in the business, we can never work on the business to grow it and improve it. It's a constant challenge to find that balance between the two.It's also really really difficult to give up control. Especially from a control freak (husband's term) like me.

We are blessed with great employees who care about our business. Seeing someone chuck out the gold tonight made me think I have a false sense of security. But then I reel myself back in from my doom and gloom cliff edge, and remember it was just a few burnt ends on a hunk of meat. It's correctible. Crisis averted.

That said, I think the next post will be how to make burnt ends. Make burnt ends? I know, there are only two ends to a brisket that get extra rub and smoke and a crunch that then melts in your mouth. But there is a way to fake burnt ends. We don't do it at Smokin' Pete's, but many joints out there do. And even though anyone thinking about it would know you can't keep burnt ends in stock, really, their customers don't care as long as they get them.

Mmmm. It is going to be a post I'll enjoy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Volcano Cake with Dinosaurs

For a barbecue blog, I sure post about cake a lot. Perhaps it's because food is a celebration to me, and many celebrations involve cake. Or perhaps it's because my husband, Eric, has a way with cakes. His aren't delecate cakes, or even pretty cakes, but they are the kind of cake that make you say "No Way!" when you see them, and then "Oh my freakin' god!" when you eat them.

For his first birthday, my son requested, and I quote, "A chocolate volcano cake with red lava coming out, and dinosaurs climbing it with a T-Rex on top." You see, he is under the impression that all kids can simply describe their fantasy cake, and a parent produces it.

Perhaps it is because, for his 4th birthday, his daddy made him a monster-sized monster cake.

Or because he remembers this Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Bacon Frosting.

Or his mommy's grilled birthday cake or her Harvest Cake in celebration of not cleaning the house.

Or the special She-Cake that kind of started it all.

Eric's volcano cake was loved by the kids and hated by the parents at the party. Not that the adults didn't chow down on the double chocolate cake with butter cream frosting. But we heard a few grumbles of the ilk that he'd just upped the cake ante way too far and that any store-bought would now pale considerably. Sorry.

So how did he do it? Pro novelty cake makers would layer up a sheet cake and then carve out the shape. But this requires a certain skill and it wastes a lot of cake. Eric instead thought of the volcano scape like a topographical map. He cut out a shape on restaurant-size parchment paper, then made smaller shapes that layered up. He then baked two sheet pan cakes. Once fully cool, he placed the parchement on the cake and cut out the shapes. Then he layered each with frosting in between and iced the entire cake.

For the lava he used red jello and for the tar pit surrounding the cake, green jello.

This was enough cake to feed about 60 people, so scaling it to a home-sized sheet pan and parchment would be plenty big enough.

Oh dear. I just smeared frosting from cake left-overs on my keyboard. Hazard of the job.

Next post: Back to barbecue, wherein I blog about having to stop myself from whacking a trainee upside the head at the restaurant for CUTTING OFF THE BURNT ENDS OF THE BRISKET AND PUTTING THEM IN THE SCRAP PILE.  I know. I'm still shaking my head. I'll devote at least one post to brisket burnt ends as a way of dealing with it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Camera Found!

For two months, I have been hobbled without my camera. I kept holding off buying a new camera because I knew wasn't truly lost. It was underneath the car seat, in my office in a box, or...where it was finally a demo box kit I'd put in the catering room at work.

Truth be told, I want a better camera, but I don't want to rush into a purchase. My phone camera has been so poor a substitue, that I've actually posted far less than these past two months. I have loads of posts I could put up here, but without a good picture, I can't make myself do it.

The minute I had my camera in hand, I took a picture of  Eric's bounty of chanterelles and oyster mushrooms picked on an incredibly sunny November day up at Index.

Tomorrow's picture will also be from the hands of Eric. It will be about cake. If you've followed this blog at all, you know Eric makes some pretty fantastic cakes. I think this one, erm, took the cake.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Recipe: Bundt Cake Pan Chicken

The other day I wanted to make Beer Can Chicken. One of my favorite grocery stores, Ballard Market, had two-for-one organic chickens so they were almost the price of, um, un-organic chickens. Score!

By now you've heard of Beer Can Chicken. It's a popular and easy way to smoke chicken on the grill: Open a tall boy beer, take a few gulps and poke a few holes in the can, then stick the can up the chicken cavity and place on grill. The steam from the beer keeps the chicken nice and juicy, while the chicken, in an upright stance, smokes evenly.

Only I didn't have a beer. No problem, I said to myself, rummaging in my messy bottom kitchen cupboard. I know I have one of those beer can chicken stands around here. Clanking around and throwing various kitchen and baking equipment around, my hand landed on part of Grandma Helen's bundt cake pan. Grandma Helen was Eric's grandma, and we have hordes of cast iron pans and ancient but useful baking pans from her.

I held it up and realized it would be a perfect "beer can chicken" stand. Not only would it hold up the chicken and be sturdier than a beer can, the bottom part would catch the drippings so I could baste the chicken along the way.

And it's downright girly, I thought, me being the kind of feminist who finds no offense in the idea of being a girl.

So here it is, my recipe for Bundt Cake Pan Chicken. Incidentally, if you don't have a bundt pan, you may substitute a tall boy can of beer.

Spice rub of your choice
kosher salt (if rub has no salt in it)
1 whole chicken
Olive oil

1) Prep your chicken: Remove giblets. Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Rub generously with olive oil, followed by kosher salt. Pat rub all over chicken.

2) Place chicken upright on bundt pan.

3) While chicken is sittin' pretty and getting her rub on, go get your smoke on: Make fire in grill for indirect, medium heat. Shoot for 300 degrees. You can smoke it slow and low, but I like my chicken skin crispy, and the higher temperature will do that. Once pre-heated (charcoal or gas), add wood to fire.

4) Cook chicken for one hour without peeking. Use your vents to control and stabilize the heat. After one hour, baste chicken with juices collecting at base of bundt pan. Continue to baste every 30 minutes for about 2 to 2 1/2hours until chicken reads 165 degrees in the meaty part of the thigh.

5) The trickiest part is taking the bundt pan with chicken off the grill without spilling all the juices on the fire. I removed some of the drippings first, then picked it up carefully with a hot pad and tongs on to a plate. Let the bird sit about 5 minutes before pulling off the bundt pan. Remember that the pan will be hot! Let sit for another 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

You may notice that the rub is light, and a little uneven. What can I say? The baby woke up from her nap right as I was applying the rub, and I needed to hurry up and get and get the bird on so I could pick up son from pre-school. You know what? It was delicious! This method of cooking chicken makes it so tender and juice, that it requires very little fuss.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ballard Author Event

You are invited to a one-of-a-kind event on October 19: Ballard Authors & Neighbors. For the locals reading this post, you know that Ballardites stick together. It has the feel of a small town inside a big city. What has changed since I was a child is that Ballard has become a diverse quilt of art, music, hip shops and restaurants.

Mixed in, quietly among the stitches, are those of us that work with words. We wallflowers will come out of the Norwegian wood, so to speak, for an evening roundtable with 30 authors talking about writing, playing bingo, and signing books. Ballard's own Secret Garden Bookstore will sell books.

Come on out to Sunset Hill Community Club, 7-9pm, and join in the fun. Read the Ballard News Tribune article for more information and a peek at some of the authors that will be there.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Food Poetry Friday: October Berries

I haven't participated in Poetry Friday for awhile, but today, looking out at the grey, this poem I wrote a few years ago seems right. This week Poetry Friday is hosted by Carol's Corner.

If you are a berry picker, as I am, you know about October berries. Most left on the vines are shrivelled, bug-eaten, or moldy. But some look plump and ripe like August berries. You pick one, peer at it closely to make sure you didn't miss a nasty bit, and if it checks out, you pop it in your mouth.

How sour it is! October berries were green in August, and never really ripened properly. Still. This will be the last berry you pick until next summer.

October Berries
by Julie Reinhardt

August is the time to find
Juicy berries on the vine
Until your mouth is purple and
You’ve red stained fingers on each hand

But now it is October, yet
I hunt for berries, cold and wet
I pick as if they were like gold
These left behind, fruit not sold

For though they are not plump and sweet
As August berries that I eat
October berries are the last
Until next August comes to pass

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dish Up Literacy Tonight

Come eat out at Smokin' Pete's or other participating restaurants for a good cause! Page Ahead, Washington State's leading provider of children's books and literacy programs gets over 160,000 new books into kids' hands each year.

Tonight restaurants will donate 20% of sales to Page Ahead for their annual "Dish Up Literacy" night.  At Pete's also have live music tonight by Dysfunction Junction! So whether you come for the bluegrass, or the books, it's going to be a great night.

One last extra special perk: Secret Garden Bookstore will give you a 10% discount on book purchased for Page Ahead. We will have a book drop at Pete's all week, or you can purchase books and leave them there.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Redhook Ale Sausage Fest 2010

You may have noticed I missed posting last week. Between running around getting everything ready for Sausage Fest, starting a new co-op pre-school, which had some 3-hour thing I needed to do almost every day, and attending a 4-hour writing workshop (yay!), I never caught my breath.

Then the weekend hit. Besides preparing "bites" for 2000 at an outdoor beer, meat, and music festival on the Redhook Ale Brewery grounds, we also had a wedding for over 200 the next day, another catering, and a ton of large pick up orders for the big football weekend.

Poor Eric. Friday night I saw him between the hours of 2:45 am 5:45am, the time he went to bed, and the time he got up to go back to work. I know of no other person than my husband that can time hundreds of pounds of meat for multiple functions with a demeanor so calm, he makes others nervous. You see, he is most comfortable in the eye of chaos. Give him a 12-item menu for a complicated wedding, and he's fine. Throw in a hail storm and 30 mph winds and he's downright chipper.

For Sausagefest we decided to make pulled pork sliders, chopped jerk beef sliders, and MOINK balls (Me: What do think of this menu, honey? Him: Whatever. You're going to do it no matter what I say). The festival expected 2000 guests minimum, so each of the 11 vendors were instructed to provide 2000 tastes of each item.

I do a lot of catering math, so I knew that it wasn't possible for one person to eat one of each menu item from 11 vendors. Most vendors served 3 items, so 33 times 2-4 oz of meat per person would be about 6 pounds of meat per person.

Still, I knew the MOINK balls, a steal at only a buck each, were going to fly out the tent. We soon learned just how much labor it takes to make 2000 bacon-wrapped meatballs. I'm glad we did, because we sold at least 1500 of them in about 6 hours.

I was on the ball station for a long stretch. It was relentless. All day I heard, "Double ball! Combo with a ball! Pork slider with a ball! Nine meatballs!" I kept trying to find a bottle of water, but the ball orders wouldn't stop. We traded food with the great folks at Salumi, and I only had time to eat one delicious slice of cured pork. I don't know what happened to the other plates they sent over, but hope someone on our staff was able to eat it.

Molly Moon's Ice cream was right next door. I'd had visions of trading tastes with them throughout the day. We both had lines 30 people deep that didn't let up for 4 hours or more. At one point I couldn't hear the orders anymore. I'd repeat it, then the order would float away from my brain.

That's when I begged some icecream from the two people scooping like machines in their spiffy ice cream truck. We traded protein for dairy and that little bit of maple-bacon ice cream I savored in a 2-minute break, saved me. Yep, I can say I've been saved by Molly Moon's ice cream, gosh bless 'em.

It was intense, a blast, and I saw a number of friends there. I didn't get to roam, like I'd hoped, but as you can see, we took our new smoker on her maiden voyage, and she smoked like a champ. I'm already booking caterings with her, so she's off and running.

Pre-school is settling down, as is the summer, so I hope to post more frequently. Fall is my favorite season. Creative juices flow more readily, and the rainy months in our little corner of the country beg for blog posts about stews, smoked turkey, and squash on the grill.

It's also time to take a long, deep breath. Did you breath deeply just now? Good. So did I.