Thursday, 12 January 2012

022 - Roasted Pork Belly

For number 22 in the list of 100 things to BBQ, I chose a joint of meat favoured by cheffy types, but one which I'd never actually cooked myself... the delicious sounding pork belly! It's thick layer of fat keeps the meat really moist as it cooks, and if done correctly produces a lovely layer of crackling... mmm!
After looking around online to research methods, the one that caught my eye the most was this by Planet Barbecue: Pork Belly Joints
The joint I found at my local supermarket was roughly 800g. This gave us enough meat for 2 as a main meal, with plenty left over for sandwiches the next day :-)

They key to getting the crackling right seems to be hitting it hard with some high temperatures right at the beginning of the cooking process, so that the fat starts to render and bubble straight away. So I set up the barbecue with a full chimney of lit coals (arranged to allow for indirect and direct cooking), left the air vents fully open, and closed the lid to let it get up to temperature while I prepped the meat.
It's best to cut through the skin before cooking, because otherwise carving through the crispy layer of crackling will be too difficult. My joint had already been scored, and I'm sure most butchers would also complete this step for you. To give the skin a helping hand in turning into crackling, I poured 2 full kettles of boiling water directly over skin - this helps to soften the skin and starts the process of rendering the fat. I then patted it dry with paper towel and rubbed a generous portion of salt into the skin, making sure to spread it into each score line.

After placing on the cooking grill and closing the lid, I closed the top air vents halfway to start to bring the temperature down. Although I wanted the temperature very high at the start to get the fat crisping up - the cooking process was going to take approx. 3 hours, so I reduced the temperature and slowed it down. I actually ended up closing the top air vent to roughly 1/4 open after about an hour, so control the temps further.

Towards the end of the cooking process, I flipped the joint over and placed it directly over the coals to really hit the skin and fat with a final thump of heat. To finish, I moved the joint back over to indirect heat and brushed some honey over the crackling and left it to cook for a further 30 minutes.

Finally, one critical point about the resting method. Following all the instructions above, I'd put a lot of care and attention into making sure the layer of crackling was crisp and tasty. I didn't want to waste all of that effort it by wrapping the whole thing in foil - letting the meat juices steam onto it, and end up spoiling the crackling by making it soft and chewy. So instead, I placed the joint on a square piece of foil and wrapped it up the sides of the joint, taking care not to wrap the foil over the crackling.

The end result was fantastic! I served it with crispy roast potatoes, stuffing and some steamed veg. The meat was mouth-wateringly moist and had a great flavour from being cooked over coals. But the star of the show was the crackling. Describing it as crispy doesn't quite do it justice - it would certainly have tested Granny's dentures! The caramelised honey along with the rubbed in salt gave it a slightly sweet/sour taste that I really enjoyed. If you're a fan of roast pork but are looking for something new, I'd definitely recommend giving this a try :-)

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

021 - Atomic Buffalo Turds

I'd originally tried making ABTs with peppadews. Partly because my better half is not a big fan of spicy food, and partly because finding whole jalapenos in the UK is not an easy task! All the chilli farms I found on the internet had sold out of fresh ones, and my local supermarkets only sold the sliced and pickled variety. Eventually, I found some from, so I decided to give them another go...
My first task was to rinse the jalapenos from the liquid they had been stored in, and carefully remove the white flesh and seeds from inside (I used the blunt end of a teaspoon to try and avoid piercing the skin). Then I left them to drain and dry out on top of some kitchen paper. As you can see, I also made some more with peppadews because I enjoyed them so much the first time :-)

Directions for ABTs seem to vary, in that some only use half a pepper for each ABT where others use a whole one. My jalapenos seemed fairly small, so I opted to make mine using whole peppers. I piped cream cheese into each pepper using a sandwich bag with a hole cut in one corner. A good tip is to leave the cream cheese out at room temperature for half an hour, allowing it to soften before attempting to pipe it.

Then, I quartered some cocktail sausages length ways and inserted a piece into each jalapeno. Finally, a piece of bacon is wrapped around each pepper and held in place with a cocktail stick. For a finishing touch, and an extra BBQ taste, I dusted the completed ABTs with some Butt Rub!

All that's left to is to smoke them on the BBQ until the bacon is cooked, and the chillis are warmed through and starting to get nice and juicy. I cooked these as a side dish for the triple play chicken, so added them in a foil tray over indirect heat - they would get a decent smoking during the 2nd flavour hit of the chicken :-)

Let me get straight to the point about these fiery little treats... they absolutely blew my head off! I'm unsure whether these tinned jalapenos are hotter than the fresh versions but as soon as I bit into one, my mouth was ablaze! And the cream cheese, whilst tasty, certainly did nothing to counteract the burning sensation. It's safe to say that I enjoyed making them a lot more than I enjoyed eating them :-) 

If you're in to all things spicy, then you will love these. For me though, I think I'll stick to the peppadews in future...!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

020 - Roasted Chestnuts

For number 20 in the list of 100 things to BBQ, a quick one, but a festive one... roasted chestnuts! :-)

As the song goes, these just need to be "roasted on the open fire". After I had finished cooking the pork shoulder for the boxing day pulled pork, there was still a good amount of direct heat coming from the mostly burnt out charcoal - so I put it to good use.
The only bit of prep I did was to crack the shells slightly, to make sure they didn't explode during cooking. You can do this with a sharp knife, and just open the shells slightly. But I chose to just use the heavy end of a metal garlic press (I didn't have a kitchen mallet to hand...) and gave each chestnut a decent whack to split the shells. It's best to leave the shells on for cooking, to protect the nut from most of the direct heat. You want the nuts to roast and toast - not fry and burn :-)

Then I placed them directly on to the cooking grate, above the coals, closed the lid and left them for around 10 minutes. Bear in mind that my charcoal had already been burning for 4 hours, so the heat was nice and low. If you were using hotter coals, don't leave them for as long (you may even have to position them slightly off to the side of the direct heat.
Finally, after removing the chestnuts from the BBQ and leaving them to cool slightly, it's just a matter of peeling and enjoying them while they are still warm. Singing along with Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole whilst eating these in encouraged! :-)

Monday, 2 January 2012

019 - Boneless Pulled Pork

Ever since I set up my 100ThingsToBBQ twitter account and started to follow other BBQ enthusiasts, it became clear that there are a few classic cuts that are favoured througout the BBQ community. Ribs, brisket and the subject for this post... pulled pork!

The basic concept behind pulled pork, is to slow roast and smoke a shoulder of pork until it is so tender and juicy it can literally be "pulled" or torn apart. And when I say slow, I mean really slooow! A bigger, bone-in shoulder could be cooking for over 8-10 hours. So in most cases, if you don't want to be eating very late - you'll need to get up quite early in the morning to light your BBQ. I however, was only cooking for 5 people so bought a 2 kilo shoulder which only took around 4 hours to cook.

A big thanks goes to Matt_MMc for giving me lots of advice for this cook. I also referenced Weber's Pulled Pork recipe for help on cooking a smaller joint.

I prepped the joint by removing the skin and most of the fat. Pork shoulders have quite a lot of fat running through them, so should keep moist throughout the cooking process without leaving a top layer of fat. Then, on the advice of Matt_MMc I soaked it in apple juice in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, after removing the shoulder from the apple juice and patting it down with kitchen paper, I applied a fairly generous coating of Bad Byron's Butt Rub and left it at room temperature while I got the BBQ up to temperature.

As I was going to be cooking for 4 hours, I used a full chimney of briquettes, and piled them against one side of the BBQ. Stacking the charcoal in a pile against the BBQ wall rather than spreading it out in an even layer helps to slow down the burn by limiting the oxygen flow, and lengthen burn times. 

I was aiming for grill temps of 100 to 120 degrees C. Of course, a full chimney of charcoal can produce much higher temps than this, so to counter this I closed the air vent in the lid virtually all the way (I left the lower air vents all fully open). This further controlled the air flow, lowering temps and lengthening burn time. In fact, after 4 hours, the Weber briquettes that I was using were still achieving a grill temperature of just over 100 degrees C.

I added a handful of soaked wood chips to the coals every 15 minutes for the first hour, but then left the lid closed as much as possible to avoid losing heat. I positioned the lid's air vent on the opposite side to the charcoal, so that the smoke was drawn over the meat. I'm not sure if this next step was necessary. but I turned the meat around after 2 hours to cook the meat evenly.

After 4 hours, I checked the temperature of the pork using a probe thermometer and it was around 80 degrees C. Some recipes call for meat temps of 85 degrees, but anything above 75 is good. I wrapped the shoulder up in foil, and let it rest for half an hour to let the meat juices redistribute throughout the whole joint. 

Then, I pulled the pork apart using 2 forks and served on a platter with some large white rolls and some warmed Bone Suckin' sauce on the side. I'm not sure if you quite see it in the photo above, but the first hour of smoking left a lovely pink layer giving the meat a lovely smokey taste - yum! The pork really was very very juicy - it didn't quite fall apart but was quite easy to shred up with the forks. I intend to try a larger bone-in joint before I complete the 100 list, and the longer cooking times should mean even juicier meat.

Overall, not only did I enjoy eating this, but I really enjoyed cooking it as well. The act of controlling the charcoal, and maintaining the cooking temps over the 4 hours gives a real sense of accomplishment. I saved a chunk of the shoulder and stored it in the fridge to eat the next day. I sliced it cold this time, so the smoke and bark layers were even more visible and possibly made it even tastier :-)