Friday, July 30, 2010

Wild Huckleberry Bread

Many of you know that I have a penchant for wild huckleberries. Red, blue, it doesn't matter which variety. I just want to eat them. We pick these wild, tart berries every year, up on some property near Index, WA. You may have read my last year's post called Huckleberry Sweet and Sorrow Tart.

This year was an excellent crop. Just the right amount of sun and rain made them plump and perfect. What didn't go into the kid's mouths, went into to our bucket. Oh, how we could have plundered without the babes! Then again, I'd have missed baby girl's exclamation at every single berry, "Bewwy!", and her chubby little hands stuffing handfuls into her sweet cheeks. 

We promised Eric's mom some berry something when she visits in August. Let me tell you, the stock is dwindling. She may just get a few frozen berries on yogurt for breakfast.

I coralled my son the day after berry pickin' to help me make this bread. I used a recipe in the Joy of Cooking for a baseline of ratios, but made it up as we went along. We ate the entire loaf throughout the day. I think my husband got one slice. Maybe.

Wild Huckleberry Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2 X 4 1/2 loaf pan.

Whisk together:
1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, beat on high:
6 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sugar

Gradually beat in:
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
3 T maple syrup

Add the flour mixture in three parts, beating on low or handmixing until just combined. Fold in 1 cup of wild huckleberries. (You may substitute 1/2 cup of dried berries and 1/2 cup chopped pecans).

Bake 45 minutes. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding from pan to further cool before slicing. Dust with powdered sugar.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Our smoker, our oven

I'm embarrassed to admit this. Back in April, in April, our oven elements at home went out. I tried out the self-cleaning function on the oven, and apparently four years of grime was too much for the thing, so it quit.

It was right before the book tour, and then I went to Memphis, and then catering season hit three seconds after I landed (while I'm admitting embarrassing things: suitcase still not entirely unpacked).

I also checked and they don't carry the elements at Home Depot or Lowe's. All appliance parts live in a place called Tukwila. If you are in the Seattle area, that is. There is an actual town, south of Seattle, that hoards appliance parts and to get them you have to go there. Yeah right.

We haven't missed it much. Eric is the king of the one pan meal, and we have a bevvy of grills and smokers in the back yard. The two things I miss, though, are frittatas and baked goods, if "baked goods" can really be counted as one thing. Two categories then. Fluffy egg dishes and yummy baked things.

But guess what? I don't have to miss a thing. I can do it all on the grill (and so can you).

Today, I did both. Well, I kind of cheated on the baked goods category. I baked Pillsbury dough ready-made cinnamon rolls, which were yum, and besides it was work-related. Yeah. Sorry about your cubicle.

I'm doing an all-day demo at the Big Green Egg dealership in Kent on Tuesday, and needed to time my breakfast choices. I'm going to do the egg dish from scratch, but needed something easier than pie for the second item. Everyone loves a cinnamon roll, so I figure no one will bust me on the store-bought with a mouthful of buttery icing.

Both dishes were so easy and were enhanced by the imparted charcoal flavor that I must share them with you. The first is a Southwest Frittata with Yukon Gold Potato Crust.

I baked on my Weber Smokey Mountain (I don't have an Egg...yet, but it's coming). It maintains heat really nicely, but it likes 250 degrees. I can get it higher, but it takes management, and I had both kids solo today.

Both recipes are timed for this lower heat. If you have a smoker/grill that can maintain 325-350 degrees easily, halve the times. Of course you can do both recipes in the oven, but that's missing the point.

Southwest Frittatta with Yukon Gold Crust

3 Yukon Gold potatoes
salt to taste
3/4 lb sausage
2-3 T vegetable oil
8 eggs
2 T milk
4 oz grated cheddar or Colby
2 T diced green chilies
1 T diced jalapenos
4 T enchilada sauce
4-6 slices Oaxaca cheese (or other mild, slightly creamy cheese. I like the Oaxaca because it gets nice and smoky, but it's somewhat pricey and not always available)

*A note about the ingredients. I get annoyed by recipes that have you buying all sorts of ingredients where you only use a tiny bit. Just. Like. This. One. The green chilies and jalapenos do freeze well. Buy the smallest jars, or skip one of them. The enchilada sauce is nice for color and flavor, but is optional. Use what you have in the fridge and pantry! Substitute freely!

1) Cook potatoes until just done, but still firm. Cool for 1 hour.

2) Cook sausage and drain on paper towels.

3) Slice potatoes in about 1/4 inch slices and fry until just starting to brown in pan. (Remember: Hot Pan, Cold Oil. Don't add the oil until the pan is hot, then add the potatoes. This way they won't stick or get saturated with oil). Salt lightly, if at all. The sausage and cheese will add salt to the dish as well. Set aside.

4) Get coals hot and, when ashed over, spread evenly in charcoal smoker (or in half of a grill so you have an indirect cooking space). I used a water pan and think it helps keep the eggs from drying out.
5) Whisk together 8 eggs, milk, cheese, sausage, green chilies, and jalapenos (sauteed onions and garlic are also nice with this recipe. I was just out. Saute them with the sausage).

6) Place potatoes in an oiled pan that you don't mind getting a bit sooty. A 10-inch pie pan works well. Cut some potato slices in half so the "crust" goes up the sides of the pan.

7) Pour the egg mixture in the pan and place on grill.

8) Bake for 30-40 minutes. Add slices of Oaxaca cheese in a sun pattern, and alternate stripes of enchilada sauce. Bake for another 20-30 minutes until center doesn't wiggle.

9) This is important: Let cool for at least 10-15 minutes.  Cut around edges with a dinner knife.

10: Getting it out of the pan: Place one plate over it and flip. If you oiled the pan well and let the frittata cool enough, it should fall out. Don't worry if some of it doesn't. Scrape any remains and pat back into frittata. Place another plate on top and flip over again. Now the pretty part will show and most mistakes will be hidden. Slice and serve.

Cheater Baked Good Recipe on the Smoker
1) Open a can of ready made cinnamon roll dough.
2) Place in oiled pan as directed.
3) Bake in smoker at 250 degrees for 1 hour, icing it in the last 10 minutes. If you bake at the directed 325-350 degrees, follow time on can.
Eat 'em up. Hopefully you ripped the calorie/fat content part off the wrapper when opening.
You don't wanna know.

Friday, July 23, 2010

NW Barbecue: It's Salmon Bake Time

We went to the Seafair Pow Wow last weekend at Discovery Park in Seattle. I've been wanting to go to this Pow Wow for years to see the traditional dancing, and because they do a salmon bake. To those of you on the east coast, this is our answer to the clambake.

I have a particular interest in traditional salmon cooking, as you may have read in my book. I go into detail on how to create your own stakes and pit for a traditional Coast Salish preparation. We have a touristy, but authentic enough place called Tillicum Village that prepares salmon on stakes as you can see in the photo here. The salmon cooks indirectly around an alder fire.

Making stakes like these is quite easy, and a great way to cook fish at the beach or camping.

The Browns Point Salmon Bake is August 7 & 8, and if you are in the area I encourage you to go. They only host it every other year and it's the largest one in the area. It has a rich history, and one that I have a personal connection to. My uncle slow-cooked salmon in a large pit each year, along with potatoes and corn. He wrapped the salmon in seaweed the kids gathered before the bake. Turns out he learned the technique from the same Native American that started the Browns Point bake. At Browns Point, they cook the salmon on cedar stakes over a pit almost identical to the pit we saw at the Pow Wow this weekend.

The Seafair Pow Wow pit was made of cinderblocks, but instead of cedar stakes, they used modern technology and cooked the fish in mesh cages. They cooked the fish on one rack, then put another on top to turn. This made it easy to flip, with minimal lost of fish in the fire. The Pow Wow itself struck me as a joyful celebration that embraced modernity easily alongside tradition. The MC cracked jokes throughout, saying things like,

            "OK, folks, we just have to wait a second while some duct tape is applied. Duct tape being one of the necessities of traditional Navajo dancing."

It was a fun, albiet hot day (for a Northwesterner). For those of you interested in learning to cook salmon this way, or on stakes, here are a few tips.

1) Cook fish meat side to the fire first.
2) If you are cooking it on stakes, leaning toward the fire, then have the head end, the fleshier end, down, closest to the fire. This way the tail end, or tip, won't get overcooked.
3) Flip it when it is almost done. Leave it skin side to the fire for only a few minutes. Too long and the meat may fall off the skin.

Tips 1 & 2 apply if you are grilling a fish directly, too. Fish baskets are great for the more delicate varieties. I find salmon is a pretty grill-hearty fish, but if you are nervous about it, don't hesitate to use the tools available.

For much greater detail, turn to Chapter 10 in my book, or e-mail me with questions!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Back to some grillin': Kalbi Short Ribs

OK, break's over. Let's get back to some food on this barbecue blog. You may have noticed I haven't posted a recipe for awhile. June and July are our busiest catering months at Smokin' Pete's BBQ, and I'm lucky to have two matching clean socks, let alone cook something worth photographing at home.

This post ain't barbecue, it's grillin', but it sure is tasty. Korean-style short ribs are one of the quickest meals you can throw on a grill. Marinate them in the morning, throw on some rice when you get home, and sizzle these ribs on a hot hot grill.

I usually use a charcoal grill, but this time I tried out my Char-broil Quantum infrared grill. I wanted to see if the infrared grill could really get hot enough for this recipe, because I find regular gas grills don't.

Kalbi Marinade

Make a simple marinade of equal parts soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and brown sugar. Add chopped fresh ginger. Green onion is nice if you have it (I didn't this time). Chili flakes and black pepper will add some heat (I made mine mild for the kids, but I normally like a little kick of chili). Submerge ribs in marinade for 4-8 hours before grilling. Shake off excess marinade before you put them on the heat.

The Grill
Be it gas or charcoal, you want a hot fire for these babies. They are going to cook fast, and you want to sear the outside, pull them off rare on the inside, and let them finish to medium rare while they rest. Leave some indirect space on your grill in case things get too hot or flare up. I rarely have flare-ups, but I once nearly started a back yard fire while grilling short ribs.

On the infrared grill, I prepped the grill grates with a swipe of an oiled rag before turning it on. I find my infrared needs more seasoning than a standard gas grill. I then preheated both burners on high for a full 15 minutes with the lid down.

The Meat
Throw down the ribs for a quick 1-2 minutes per side. As soon as they are marked, basically it is time to turn or take them off.

Green on the grill
While they rest, grill some bok choy you have marinated in canola oil, rice wine vinegar, and a touch of soy sauce. Grill the bok choy on medium heat or indirectly, so the leaves steam without burning. Serve with jasmine rice.

I thought the infrared grill did better than a standard gas grill. While they weren't as reddish pink in the middle as I'm used to, the ribs were as tender as the rarer ribs I get on charcoal. I missed the layer of charcoal flavor to the meat, but that's the trade off when you are going for the ease of gas.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Drew Landry on the Gulf Oil Spill: Just Do The Right Damn Thing

To continue with the musical theme this month (grin), I saw this on Huffington Post today. I love this. A fine young man named Drew Landry got up and sang to the politicians. Drew, like so many people, has lost more than just his livelihood from the BP oil spill, he's lost his way of life. In the end of his presentation, in frustration he says, "Just do the damn right thing."

I want that on a T-shirt.

Not that would do anything to stop the gaping, gushing hole of oil that no one seems to know how to stop.

The destruction of ecosystems from this spill is something I doubt we will see recover in our life time. What gets me, though, is the amount of toxic chemicals they are using to break up the oil, that is already making people sick. Duh. Why is common sense so difficult for Washington?

Perhaps this song can help give the people a voice.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pictures from the Lilith Fair

Heading to the Gorge Amphitheater brought back so many memories. About 15 years ago, I used to work for a backstage catering company. We catered for the talent and the crews, preparing all their meals and dressing room requirements.

We did three years hard time at the Gorge. Every weekend in the summer, we logged the three-hour trek from Seattle, with vans loaded to the hilt with food to feed anywhere from 60 to 500 people, three meals a day, depending on the show.

Festival shows like the Lilith Fair, or Lollapalooza were crazy. We had up to 12 dressing rooms to supply, all with very specific, contracted items. If someone wanted St. Paulie Girl beer in their dressing room, there was no substituting Molsen. Not if you wanted a job the next week.

Many of the dressing room items had nothing to do with catering, but were things the artists needed, like socks, condoms, (or a brand new toilet seat because Ms. Jackson won't sit where others have).
The Gorge was particularly challenging because it is literally in the middle of nowhere. It sits on the edge of the Columbia River Gorge, in a desert landscape ringed with farmland. The nearest Costco is 2 hours away. Four hours round-trip for a forgotten item doesn't really work in catering time, where everything must be up and ready at a specific moment.

You made sure it was in the van before you left town. All of it.

It was also hot. Sagebrush hot. Rattlesnake and jackrabbit hot.

And hilly. And we had to roll case after case of beer up those hills, in the heat. I don't miss working there, it was a job for young bodies, but it sure was nice to visit last weekend, especially because we got to go like we're used to at the Gorge.

I have no idea what the Gorge is like as a "regular concert goer". Saturday, I must admit, was no different. We had backstage passes. 15 years later we drove up, in a catering van (only not as a working caterer, ours had a blow up mattress in the back), entered the gate like we used to, and went backstage. The funny thing is, I don't actually think we were supposed to park back there. But they waved us through and, since we knew how things work there, we quietly found a spot and didn't do anything un-kosher, like ask for an autograph or take pictures without permission.

We had great seats.  2nd row, center section, lookin' up the nose hairs seats. Because of that, my little digital camera pictures aren't that bad for concert shots. 

Erykah Badu was amazing (how have I missed her?), Sheryl Crow and her amazing band of 14 years rocked the house, Sugarland was full of fun and energy, and Sarah McLachlan serenaded us with her beautiful voice and spirit. Here are some of the pictures.

Oh yeah! Since this is a barbecue blog, I should tell you. The backstage caterers boiled their ribs. We watched them dump 'em from the pot. Someone eating them a bit later asked me "If they are good, though, why is that wrong?" My answer was it's not wrong if you like them, it's just not barbecue. If they taste good, then by all means, have another.

I invite you to comment.
Erykah Badu
Not only can she look glamorous in an old pair of yellow sweats, a t-shirt, farmer's apron, ten-gallon hat, and gold earrings, Erykah can sing her heart out!

Sheryl Crow played mostly crowd-pleasers plus a few songs from her upcoming album. My favorite was the rowdy Led Zeppelin show ender, complete with smashed drums, keyboards, plenty of reverb.

Bassist Tim Smith

While Sugarland is not my cup of tea musically, no one can argue that they put on a high-energy and fun show. Except maybe Eric, but he's a cranky person by nature. He doesn't trust exuberance.

This is the view from the catering tent.

And one last shot of the sun going down....

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth of July Everyone. May your 'cue be tender, may your steaks sizzle, and may you combat "bubble butt" on your burgers by making a slight depression in the center of them before they hit the grill (that was a tip, by the way).

For the first year since we opened the restaurant, I not actually working today. Eric is, as is most of our crew, but I get to be on kid duty today. Why, you ask? Because last night was our very first night away from the kids. Ever. So they need extra mama today.

Last night we went to the Lilith Fair at the Gorge, after which we drove to the woods at Index (arriving in the wee hours). We woke up and picked huckleberries, and headed back to town to pick up our loved ones, who were watched over by their loving grandparents (yay for grandparents!!!).

It's a testament to our employees that we can do this on such a huge barbecue weekend. They actually like it when "mom and dad" are away, not because they can goof off, but because they can prove to us how great a job they can do without us. Not that we need any convincing, but we appreciate it just the same.

Now go out there and fire up the coals, y'all, if you aren't already there.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Save your cuttings!

For those of you that prune back your trees in the spring or fall, remember to save the wood! Any non-evergreen wood is usually excellent for smoking, especially fruit woods. Even adding a chunk to your grill can impart a kiss of smoke on quick grilled items.

Our cherry and apple trees don't give us much fruit, or much we can reach before the squirrels and birds get to them, but they supply wood chunks most of the year for barbecue.

Season wood in a covered area for about six months.