Have a Heart on Valentine’s Day

It’s not everyday that I have an excuse to post a photo like the one below.  But Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any–and better than most–to show a little heart.  Thanks to Chef-Owner-Budding Cardiac Photographer Sam Suchoff of The Pig in Chapel Hill for the photo.  Lord only knows what Sam was up to with these pig hearts when he took the photo, but I’ll bet the end result tasted good.

 

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

Today’s post comes to us via a FOBJ (Friend of Barbecue Jew), a rare breed indeed.  Bennett Brown of LowCountry Barbecue in Atlanta wrote in to ask if I was willing to run a guest post from him.  Far be it from me to refuse a fellow barbecue traveler’s generous offer.  So, like God before me, I am resting (though not on the 7th day) and allowing my humble servants to work.  Without further ado, here’s Mr. Brown’s introduction to Georgia barbecue along with a simple Georgia-style sauce recipe that shouldn’t look too foreign to devotees of North Carolina’s Lexington-style dip.

Barbecuin’ It in Georgia

As many of you probably already know, barbecue is not just a food but a cooking method that takes place all over the world.  And just like the spelling, which is spelled a handful of ways (BBQ, Bar-b-que, barbeque, etc.), barbecue can be prepared a dozen different ways.

In England, barbecuing is done over direct high heat; however, grilling done under a direct heat source is known in America as broiling.  In Hong Kong, everyone gathers around the fire and cooks their own meat on long forks or skewers like cooking hotdogs at a campfire.  In America, barbecuing is done over an indirect heat source referred to as “low and slow.”  And in Georgia, we do it “low and slow” over a pit.

Pit cooking originated from early settlers who then adopted the grilling and smoking methods from Native Americans.  The pit can either be dug in the ground or built up with cinder blocks.  If cooking a whole hog, it is usually laid flat, butterflied-style on a grate, placed over the pit, and then usually covered with a piece of tin or sheet metal in order to keep heat from escaping.

While the heat can be generated with coals or charcoal, Georgians traditionally use wood.  Pecan or apple tree wood are believed to give flavor to the meat.  While whole hogs are very popular, whole chickens, ribs and hams are common as well.  Closer to the coast, you will find fish, oysters, and shrimp being barbecued as well.  No matter what is roasting over the pit, barbecuing is an essential part of many Georgia gatherings including the annual Georgia General Assembly’s whole hog supper before the legislative session begins.

While barbecue is different all over the world, the act of bringing family and friends together to celebrate and converse is the common link.  Even in Georgia, the best sides and ways to cook are debated constantly.  At the end of the day, an event bringing an intimacy only a few meals can accomplish is commended.

Almost as important as the meat itself – the sauce that accompanies it.  Georgia gets its influence of barbecue sauce from all around the region including the Carolinas, Tennessee, and even Texas and melds the best of all of them into a glorious vinegar, ketchup and mustard based sauce, sometimes with a little heat and sometimes with tang from a little lemon slices.  As you can tell, Georgians are pretty open when it comes to barbecue sauce as long as we have some!

Below is a recipe that uses most of the classic ingredients you would find in a Georgia vinegar sauce but with a little twist (of lemon that is!): Continue reading

Dizzy, Smokey and the Gang

This weekend I spent some time doing something I rarely do: actually cooking barbecue instead of just eating it and writing about it.  Who was my muse for this barbecue session?  Although she remains nameless thus far, my muse was without a doubt my new Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker, which I purchased a few weeks ago.  Some BBQ rub that fell into my hands was another motivator.

I can’t say enough good things about the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker, despite the needless “e” in the name (it’s the Smoky Mountains, folks!).  At any rate, the WSM is well built, affordable, and holds heat well.  I cooked during a rainy, 70-some degree day and used just one batch of charcoal, which lasted me from 10:45 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. with plenty of charcoal left at the end. Better yet, temperature control was quite simple and I stayed between 225 and 275 degrees with minimal tinkering.

If you’re looking to upgrade from a basic charcoal grill or, gasp, gas grill to something better for the relatively low, steady temprature preferred for barbecue then this cooker is a terrific choice.  Also, you can educate yourself on the ins and outs of the cooker at The Virtual Weber Bullet, a terrific instructional website that features everything from recipes to ways to customize your cooker. (AmazingRibs.com is not focused on the Weber Smokey Mountain, but is also a tremendous resource, and includes a buyer’s guide, which is where I found out about the WSM in the first place.)

Aside from wanting to give my new WSM a test ride, my other motivation for cooking barbecue yesterday was found in the spices I’d recently received in the mail.  As I’ve mentioned before, one of the benefits of being a barbecue blogger is the ability to get ahold of free samples of barbecue-related products.  The good folks at The Dizzy Pig Barbecue Company in Manassas, Virginia sent me a sampler pack of their fresh-ground rubs–11 types in all, including traditional rubs like Dizzy Dust all-purpose BBQ seasoning and more exotic ones like Pineapple Head, which is sweet and spicy and meant for grilling fruit.

I tried out several of the rubs while cooking and was impressed.  Honestly, I think it is easy and fun to make rubs at home, so rarely purchase pre-made products, but next time I do I will certainly consider Dizzy Pig.  The product tasted very fresh and the blends of spices worked well.  Check out the Dizzy Pig online or send them an email at info at dizzypigbbq.com if you want to learn more.

1,001 Best Grilling (and Barbecuing) Recipes by Rick Browne

When I received a copy of Rick Browne’s new cookbook, 1,001 Best Grilling Recipes, I had a few concerns.

First, 1,001 recipes? Really, is there a need for that many recipes? I figure slow cooked pork butt, pork shoulder or whole hog pretty much covers it and saves 998 recipes.  Second, the books cover features a quote from Regis Philbin: “Rick Browne is one of America’s leading barbecue experts.” Until proven otherwise, I would assume Regis Philbin knows about as much about barbecue as Al Roker knows about 13th century Italian poetry.  Third, and most important, I noticed the word “grilling” in the title and the word “barbecue” used in Philbin’s quote.

In my opinion, grilling and barbecue are two different things, like sauteing and pan-frying: related techniques but not the same.  Whereas grilling is cooking for a relatively short time over high heat, barbecuing is cooking for a relatively long time over lower heat.  Plus, real barbecuing requires wood or charcoal, whereas you can grill over gas, electric or anything else you can dream up.  Browne takes on my holier-than-thou attitude before he even gets to page one.

In his Introduction, Browne writes, “This book is a collection of recipes I’ve gathered over ten years of roaming… an endless pursuit of the world’s best barbecue and grilling recipes–terms, by the way, that I use interchangeably, much to the chagrin of some barbecue purists.  But to me, if you cook food outdoors using wood, charcoal, natural gas, propane or just about any other combustible materials, you’re barbecuing.”  Well, I won’t concede this point, especially knowing that Browne is a Canadian by birth and therefore should be viewed with suspicion, but I give Browne credit for addressing it right off the bat.  Plus, the man knows more about barbecue (and grilling) than most anyone on the planet.

Rick Browne’s TV show, “Barbecue America”, aired on PBS for seven years.  He has published several cookbooks, including The Best Barbecue on Earth, The Barbecue America Cookbook, and Barbecue America: A Pilgrimage in Search of America’s Best Barbecue.  He has traveled to dozens of Continue reading

How to Make Carolina Barbecue

This video, despite the cheesy Muzak and accompanying voiceover, is actually a fairly good introduction to how to make barbecue on a backyard cooker.  Check it out here or below.  And if you want to turn it into a drinking game, take a swig every time the video shows something that should make North Carolina BBQ aficionados cringe (drink twice when you see the BBQ plated next to steamed brocolli!).

 

http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/xkg3bf
How To Make Carolina Barbecue by Howcast

A Break from BBQ: Two New North Carolina Cookbooks

As the summer heat cranks up, things get interesting in North Carolina.  For one thing, Porky LeSwine starts to speak about himself in the third person and craves food beyond just barbecue.  While man could live just fine on the holy trinity of swine, slaw and hush puppies, sometimes a taste of something else is good for the soul (and the aorta).  Luckily, there are two new cookbooks from North Carolina that allow folks like Porky to get a taste of the good life beyond pork.

Andrea Reusing, newly minted James Beard award winning chef at Chapel Hill’s Lantern Restaurant has released her first cookbook, Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal RecipesReusing is best known for the Asian-inspired, locally sourced, carefully prepared fare she and her team serve at the Lantern, but Cooking in the Moment features few Asian recipes.  Instead, it is full of fairly simple, eclectic recipes that are organized by season, well explained, beautifully photographed and, judging from the few dishes I’ve made thus far, delicious.

Cooking in the Moment is particularly enjoyable for anyone who lives in or near Durham and Orange Counties, as it includes many stories involving local farmers many of us recognize from the area’s several farmer’s markets.  But don’t get me wrong, this is a hell of a cookbook and will appeal to people who live anywhere and love good food.  So, we can forgive Ms. Reusing that she fails to include any recipes for barbecue.  Die hard pigavores will have to suffice with cider-braised pork shoulder, carnitas and the like.
Another cookbook with a similar theme and Chapel Hill ties, this one published by The University of North Carolina Press, is The New Southern Garden Cookbook by Sheri Castle.   The title hints at what is inside: over 300 recipes organized alphabetically by vegetable/fruit ingredient–apples to zucchini, and a whole lot in between.

Rest assured that ham and plenty of other pig parts make their way into The New Southern Garden Cookbook’s recipes.  This is the “new south” but it is still the south.  I should confess that I’ve yet to read this cookbook–my copy is in the mail–but it sounds like a winner from all I’ve heard.  I’ll report back once I get a chance to test drive the recipes. Until then, happy cooking… and don’t forget to take an occasional break from all the produce for some barbecue.  It’s important to stay in shape, after all.

Backyard BBQ Season is Here

As I write this post it is one of those remarkably beautiful North Carolina spring days.   The temperature and humidity are perfect, the sky is Carolina blue (even for a devout Duke basketball fan like myself), and the swarms of summertime mosquitoes have yet to come out of hibernation or wherever the heck they are over the winter. In other words, it’s the perfect time to cook some barbecue.

If you want to become a master barbecue cook, or at least not embarass yourself too badly, I highly recommend reading through the great info at AmazingRibs.com.  The chief blogger/cook/all around BBQ guru over there, Meathead, offers a ton of free advice on everything from cuts of meat to buying guides for grills and accessories.  Really valuable info that ignorant wanna-be BBQers like myself can’t match.  If good old fashioned cookbooks are more your speed, I highly recommend Peace, Love, & Barbecue by Mike Mills or pretty much anything Steven Raichlen has written. Sure, he looks like a bit of a goofball but he knows his stuff.

You can spend a ton of money on a grill or smoker, but if you’re a newbie I recommend starting with something basic.  Cooking barbecue isn’t easy but it’s not all that complicated either.  There are lots of places to buy a grill, and online shops have started offering a lot of choices at competitive prices.  For example, CSGrills.com offers everything from entry level charcoal Brinkmann Smokers to top of the line Weber Gas Grills, as well as a range of other BBQ grills (with free shipping on most).  In my opinion, the only thing better than using a grill is dreaming about what a darn good pit master you’d be if you just had the right set up.  (Okay, maybe that’s just me).

Anyway, enough about my fantasies.  The bottom line: if you need a grill, buy one; if you have a grill, use it; and if you are planning to cook a bunch of barbecue, by all means save me some!  Happy cooking.

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