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.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Recipe: Smoked Meatloaf (Not your mama's)

The other day I whipped together dinner using a little of this and a little of that in the refrigerator. I was happy to use up odd bits that were still good, but on their way out.

My four-year old took one bite and spit it out. "Blech!"

I took a taste and though it was edible, I kinda had to agree with him. That night my facebook status update read, "It was not my best work. More cleaning out the fridge than cooking, really."

That inspired me to create something really good using what I had on hand in the refrigerator. I had 2 carrots, 3 mushrooms, 2 stalks of celery, half an onion, a hard end of bread, half a package of bacon, and some ground beef in the freezer. All I needed was some pork sausage and I had everything I needed for meatloaf.

Not your mama's meatloaf

At least not my mama's.

My mom basically added a few dried herbs and an egg to a hunk of ground beef, shaped it into a loaf, poured over a bottle of ketchup and cooked until well done. I was programmed to think I hated meatloaf, until one day while babysitting when I was about 14. Before leaving, the mother of the child I was sitting pulled out a meatloaf and gave me reheating instructions for dinner.

I looked at it with suspicion, but heated it in the microwave like she said. I cut off a slice and to my surprise, it had cheese and salami in the middle of it. What's more, the red sauce on it wasn't ketchup, it was a delicious marinara.

Ever since that day I learned that meatloaf can be a place of creativity and self expression....and no place for ketchup.

This meatloaf is smoked, and really, once you cook meatloaf on the grill, I swear you won't cook it in the oven again. I won't. This is based on my recipe in She-Smoke (Not Your Mama's Meatloaf, pg. 164), but of course I changed it to use what I had on hand, which is what we do when we are cooking. We use the ingredients in the larder and only buy what we absolutely have to. I encourage you to do the same with this recipe.

1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
4-6 slices bacon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1 carrot, finely diced
3-4 large mushrooms, finely diced
2 stalks celery, sliced thin and down the middle
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 pounds ground all-natural beef, 90/10

1 pound pork sausage (ground, not in casings)
1/2 cup salsa (I used up the tomatillo salsa in my fridge. Any salsa will do)

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons dried basil or finely chopped fresh basil (or herbs of your choice)
2 teaspoon ground dried sage
2 eggs

1. Cook bacon on low until brown but not crispy. Set aside. Pour out half the fat, but leave the pan nicely coated.

2. Add olive oil and saute onion until almost clear. Add carrots, mushrooms, celery, garlic salt and pepper. Cook until beginning to soften.

3. Chop bacon and add to vegetable mixture. Set aside and make a fire in charcoal grill, smoker, or gas grill. Once hot, get your smoke on with wood chunks or chips. Target temperature should be 225-250 degrees.

4. While fire is getting hot, gently mix the ground beef and pork sausage. Add the bacon-veg mixture. Whip egg, herbs and Worcestershire sauce together and pour over meat. Gently mix until ingredients are incorporated.

5. Shape into 3-4 small loaves. Place on a cookie cooling rack, perpendicular to bars.

6. Place entire rack with loaves on an indirect grill with a drip pan underneath. Smoke meatloaves for 2 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 160. For a faster cook, 300 degrees at 1.5 hours.

7. Cool for 10 minutes and slide loaves off racks onto plate. Cool another 10 minutes before slicing. (I've found that if they cool too much, they start to stick on the racks. 10 minutes is still warm enough to slide, but they'll still need a little setting time before you eat).
Incidentally, I made four small loaves and gave two to a friend who had twins only a month ago. She said it was the best they'd ever had. Of course, she's sleep deprived and probably living off cereal and church casseroles, but it was still nice to hear.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Our New Rig

For years I've wanted a mobile smoker for our catering. We have big grill, but our smokers are hard wired into the restaurant. Mobile smokers can be pricey, but in the Northwest they are also pretty rare. This isn't Texas. There isn't someone on every corner selling last year's model. It's actually quite tough to find a used one and we are not really the types to buy a brand spankin' new rig. That would be too grown up. Besides, we like a little seasoning to our equipment.

But the other day, I typed in "smoker trailer" to Craigslist and this one came up. It's a custom job, a little funky, but it's a good unit. The indirect smoker section can easily fit a whole pig, plus there is a larger grill section, accessible from both sides, for direct or indirect grilling.

I love it. Eric's been cleaning it out, scraping off some rust spots, and lighting fires in it every day. I've been on kid duty all week so I haven't been able to play with it yet. We'll fire it up next week with meat before its maiden voyage at the RedHook Ale Brewery Sausage Fest on September 18. If you are in the area, come! 11 other vendors and we will be serving up meaty "bites" for a mere $1-$3. I think Molly Moon's ice cream is even doing a bacon ice cream.  Plus there will be beer and music and I think prizes. Did I mention bacon ice cream?

If I haven't found my camera by then, I'm buying one for Sausagefest. I want to get a zillion great shots of our new rig, fully loaded with butts, brisket, and other meaty bites. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Scenes of Summer

Ah September, are you really here? I remember waaaayyyy back in April thinking about the massive amount of catering we'd have to do before it was fall again. It seemed like an insurmountable task at the time, so I only looked one week ahead at a time.

Then we got so busy I only could look ahead one week at a time. There was too much to do!

I tend to keep this blog and my work life at Smokin' Pete's a little separate. It's challenging, as they are both about barbecue, but this blog is also about the time I'm not in the restaurant. It's about cookin' in the backyard, with kids running around me, and about how I try to sneak in writing time here and there. Hopefully I share a few tips along the way to help you, or at least a story to make you laugh from time to time.

This blog is also a creative break from work for me. I can post what I want; I don't get paid for it and I blog because I like it.

But this week I have to write about work. We had a helluva summer! We did more catering than ever and sort of grew up as a business: we finally bought a catering van after years of delivering in our station wagons (or as one client called it, our "clown cars", because we fit so much in our two wagons), we have a higher caliber crew, and could rely on our staff more than in years past, and yesterday, after over a year of looking, we bought a mobile smoker!
I'll show you pictures of it tomorrow. First, I thought I'd share some shots of summer. Enjoy.
Smoked chicken finished off on the grill for a crowd of almost 2000.
Meat. It's what's for dinner.
One of my floral arrangements this summer. I always forget to take pictures!

Biker night at Pete's. This group drives up at least once a month.

Fixin's platter and our Sweet Potato Cornbread.
Not the prettiest pic, but hey, I'm workin' here. CB, if you're reading, note the Char-Broil hat.

We cater a lot of weddings and rehearsal dinners, more than you might think. This wedding was stunning, as was the bride. She wasn't afraid to chow down on some ribs in her dress either, bless her.

I had many visits by old and new friends this summer, including this one by Barry "CB" Martin of Char-broil, Larry "The BBQ Grail" Gaian, and his lovely wife Celeste. Larry and Celeste breezed in between a wedding rehearsal and trip to Pike's Place Market. We ate Eric's Kalbi Beef Ribs, plus a sampling of barbecue.

Smoked Salmon. We smoked these wild Sockeye with a mix of alder and cherry.

And finally, though I have loads of cute pics of my kids this summer, I am reticent to put them out here on the web. I'll instead share one of our two new furry kids. This is Saber (short for Saber tooth Tiger). She's a cuddle bug.

Hope you all had a wonderful summer and that you all remember this: barbecue is good any time of year. Especially February. Don't forget to eat ribs at Pete's in February, y'all. It will beat back the winter blues for both of us.