Monday, May 26, 2014

The Great American Smoked BBQ Experiment - Phase 1

This lovely Memorial Day weekend saw our very first attempt at smoking ribs the way they do down there. Or over there. Or up here. Wherever it is that adventurous souls are using tender smoke to make tender ribs. That was the challenge. And the challenge was accepted, met, hurdled and smashed to pieces, if I do say so myself.

There was a threat of rain showers all day long, but it wasn't going to deter us from our quest. I stopped at a local butcher to pick up two racks each of babyback ribs and St. Louis ribs. The babybacks have been our go-to rib when we go out for yummies, but I think we are turning the corner on the St. Louis ribs. More on that later.

A generous rub made from brown sugar, sea salt, cumin, red cayenne, garlic, chili powder and whatever else I had in the spice rack was applied to the bare ribs to make them oh-so pretty and ready for the smoker.

Aren't they pretty?
Now it was time to get the smoker into high gear. I'd never used an offset smoker before, nor any smoker for that matter. So I was hoping I could pull this off without fucking up, if you know what I mean. The charcoal goes in the small, lower box on the smoker and when they are nice and ready, you can add your wood or wood chips, however you roll. From the advice of a friend, I picked up a cast-iron smoke box that I put the water-soaked applewood and hickory chips in for smoking. That worked divine.

Here's a quick video of our offset smoker in action. Check it.

UPDATE: Well, uploading the video didn't work. Here's a screenshot instead.

Not a video...sadly

Using open vents on the side of the smaller box on the right and vents from that box into the bigger box, the smoke and heat moves through the larger area where you smoke your ribs. A water pan (I used apple juice, water and cider vinegar) is placed at the bottom of the larger area to maintain moisture along with the smoke. I was supposed to get the temp in the big box up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, but I could only coax it up to 165-170 or so. So I was supposed to smoke the ribs for 3 hours in that environment, but I added an extra hour due to the lower temp.

After the four hours, I wrapped them in heavy-duty foil with a bit of Srirachi sauce and a quick baste of apple juice and cider vinegar. Then I added some coals to the big box on the smoker and cooked them in the foil using indirect heat at around 275-300 for about an hour. The ribs were sooo juicy and tender at that point, I almost wanted to skip the final step. That final step was a quick 10 minutes on direct heat whilst I slabbed on some BBQ sauce. I used a store-bought sweet sauce as a base and added Srirachi and some Red Hot BBQ for a kick. Came out wonderful. Equally sweet and spicy.

St. Louis on the left, Babybacks on the right. Zoom in for BBQ porn.

Second helping. Babybacks, homemade slaw and mac & cheese.

The entire day was a huge success. The ribs were smoky, tender and juicy. Some of the best ribs I've ever had in my life, if I can brag for a moment. Maybe the day spent with my buddy drinking beers and bourbon and tending the smoker had something to do with it. Great company always is the best accompaniment to great food, I always say. I also made some homemade cole slaw and mac & cheese with cauliflower as side dishes. PBR and Bulleit bourbon were also on hand to get us through the meal.

This was our first foray into the art of smoking, but it certainly won't be our last. There smoked brisket, pork shoulder or butt, more ribs and just about anything else we can think of smoking coming our way in the near future.

After all, it is our Summer of BBQ.


The view from our patio - post BBQ.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Hash & Eggs

Did some more barbecuing last night. It's only May 21st and I've already barbecued more this year than I did last year. And it's not even really summer yet. This coming weekend I'm going to smoke some ribs for some friends of ours. I'll make macaroni and cheese and homemade coleslaw too, but we'll have more on that once the weekend comes.

Last night I grilled up some marinated steak tidbits over some coal. I've always been a gas grill kinda fella, but I'm going with coal this summer. Just for shits and giggles. And because we have a large smoker that I'm going to be using a lot this year. I also grilled a few ears of corn on the cob. Not exactly sure where this corn came from this early in the year, but it was super fresh and super tasty. I'm not complaining. No food porn from last night. It was all good, but not particularly photogenic, if ya know what I mean.

But today...ah, today was leftovers for lunch in the most amazing possible way. As I mentioned in my last post, I love me some leftover hash. So I chopped up the remaining grilled steak and some leftover fries that we had hanging around to make a hash. Added a few dashes of Tabasco and Pickapeppa to the mix and then topped it all off with a sunnyside up egg.

Yeah man...this should be what lunch is about every single freakin' day. Check it.

Everything is better with a fried egg on top. Everything.

Monday, May 19, 2014

BBQ Restaurant Review: Dixie's Smokehouse (King's Park, NY)

Hey there kids. It's been a looooong time. Too long. So long that I had even forgotten that this blog existed. Until last night when a Twitter buddy reminded me about it. I still love the idea of a collaborative blog about all things food and booze. What you ate and drank, where you ate and drank them. Stuff like that. And since I recently decided that 2014 will be my "Year of BBQ", I figured I would get back into the game with a review of the first new BBQ joint that we hit up this past weekend. Dixie's Smokehouse in King's Park, NY.

Situated, oddly, in a busy strip mall right off of the Long Island Rail Road, Dixie's is a actually a comfortable little spot amidst that kind of crazy. They offer attractive (for the setting) outside seating, but since it was just in the mid-60's we decided to head inside. We got there for a super-early Saturday dinner at 4:15PM, so we were pretty much the only people in the joint at that time. We were there so early, that old people just started showing up as we were leaving. They looked confused. Like they couldn't understand why anyone without an AARP card could possibly want to eat that early.'s not normally our bag. But we had been researching local BBQ all day and we were starving because of it. So that's that.

The interior was clean and attractive, and had a great smoke aroma lingering in the air. So you know they actually smoked their meats right on premise. Something they reminded you of all over the walls and menus. Good. Be proud, on-premise smokers! We started with ordering some beverages, and herein lies my only real complaint with the joint. If you run something you call and "authentic BBQ" joint, try just a little bit to have a reasonable cocktail/beer list. They had zero in the way of craft beers and even less in the way of geographic appropriate offerings. This is a Texas-style BBQ, but no Lone Star or Shiner to be found, not even PBR in a can. Nada. Went with a plain old Budweiser because I had to have a beer with my BBQ. I'm not a fucking barbarian. For what it's worth, Gia went with a margarita and she said it was delicious. But I still feel that they could greatly improve the joint with just the smallest of efforts in the booze area. By the way, this is the same problem I have with many BBQ joints on Long Island. They put all their efforts into the food and nothing into the bar. It's like they don't even know who I am anymore...

For appetizers, we went with the Burnt Ends, burnt ends of smoked brisket over Texas Toast, and Over the Top Nachos with chili. When the food arrived, we immediately saw that we ordered too much. Our waitress realized it as well. She let us know halfway through our apps that she hadn't even put in our entree yet because it looked like we were going to take our time. We did...slow and steady. Still didn't finish either app because we wanted to save room for ribs. But both were delicious! The Burnt Ends were incredible flavorful and a great way to try a joint's brisket. The nachos truly were over the top. Biggest complaint with nachos is that the toppings sometime make the nachos a soggy mess. Not so with these. Crispy, delicious nachos and toppings all around. Well done.

Baby backs top left, St. Louis top right, Beef below

For our entree, we shared a Three Rib Combo platter. Half-racks of St. Louis and Baby Back ribs and one huge beef rib. We ordered it with steak fries and macaroni and cheese. Had the choice of ordering the ribs dry or glazed with their Texas sauce. We went with glazed. They were all delicious. Smoky, juicy, spicy and a little sweet. The surprise for both of us was the gigantic beef rib. It was really, really good. Again, we couldn't finish it all, so we took about half the platter home with us. Later that night, as a midnight snack, I chopped up the fries and the remaining beef rib to make a quick beef hash. That was really delicious as well. Except that I didn't listen to my gut and augment with a sunnyside egg on top. Sigh. You learn.

Missing: sunnyside egg

Overall, a very positive experience and a restaurant that we would be willing to return to. Especially if they do a little something about their bar offerings.

Official Rating: 3.5 gnawed rib bones out of 5