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.