Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Weekend BBQ Fest while watching the Pacquiao-Cotto fight

I woke up quite early on a misty sunday morning. I tried to sleep again but my eyes were so wide awake so I decided to go to the wet market driving a motorcycle at 4 o'clock in the morning! Since I subscribed for the cable viewing of the Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto "Firepower" slugfest, I might as well have my very own bbq fest. Ahhh... nothing beats good food while watching boxing on TV with family and friends. It is a given fact that whenever Manny Pacquiao fights, the whole country is on a standstill, everyone inside their houses glued to their TV, no henious crimes for the day, and definitely an official ceasefire in Southern Mindanao.

I took a fancy on a fresh 2 kilo "talakitok" (jack fish) for P 110/kilo, a very cheap price comparing it to the prices of seafood in Metro Manila. A whole chicken, some fresh veggies, a kilo of brisket point, a kilo of pork ribs and a kilo of ground pork.... that's it!! Good enough for a sunday lunch in front of the TV.

Once I got back home after a 30 minute buying spree from the market, I started trimming the fats of the pork ribs and the brisket point, slathered them with mustard and sprinkled them generously with my leftover Big Time BBQ Rub that I made last week. I washed and cleaned the fish, made 3 slits per side, sprinkled the cavity with salt and pepper and inserted bits of lemongrass, garlic, onions and ginger. I sprinkled the fish with my own concoction of a fish wet rub that includes grated lemon rind, toasted cardamon seeds, coriander seeds, ginger, lemongrass, paprika, a touch of cayenne pepper, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper.

In one of the threads in the bbq-brethren forum, I read a post about beer can chicken so I decided to make my own version and add a little naughty twist to it by inserting a pair of slice lemons in the breast of the chicken to make what they call "beer can breast chicken". But instead of putting a beer can in the cavity of the chicken, I opted for a can half full of 7up with some fresh minced lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, garlic, onions, salt and pepper. I experimented on my own version of an Asian Rub by mixing fresh minced lemon grass, minced kaffir lime leaves, turmeric powder, cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander seeds, sugar, salt and pepper. I applied the rub generously against the skin of the chicken, inside the cavity and underneath the skin for better flavor. I'm going to name this version the DOLLY PARTON CHICKEN.

I'm craving for breakfast sausage again but this time I won't add some stuffing. A plain savory sausage is all I need to perk up my sunday lunch which I sprinkled with the Big Time BBQ Rub.

I revved up my drum once again and it hit 400 degrees F in no less than 15 minutes. This drum is really a work horse. It maintained its hot temperature for about 30 minutes then I brought it down to 250 degrees F and dumped the brisket point, pork ribs, Dolly Parton chicken and sausages. with a couple of apple wood chunks with the burning charcoal.
After an hour and a half the sausages were done. I took them out of the drum, had it rested for 30 minutes before I sliced them. They were so juicy and savory, I can eat one whole sausage in one sitting!
My meat probe thermometer, which I inserted in the thickest part of the thigh of the chicken, sounded its alarm an hour after, reminding me that the internal temperature of my Dolly Parton Chicken has reached the level of doneness that I'm after, around 165 degrees F. I took it out of the drum and dumped slices of carrots, brocolli, cauliflower, green bell pepper and sliced onion rings for some good smoke which I will be using for a sumptuous Smoked Vegetable, Chicken and Penne Pasta Hot Salad.
The pork ribs were next in line. They were cooked about 30 minutes right after I placed the vegetables in the drum. I let them rest for about an hour before I sliced them. And just right before the time I was about to slice the ribs, I took out the brisket point as well.
I wasn't about to forget the fish!! My drum is just about empty so it's a perfect time for me to cook the 2 kilo jack fish. I adjusted the air intake so that my drum would run smoothly at 225 degrees F, just a tad perfect for a bbq fish smoked with mesquite wood chunks. I also took out the vegetables as they were heavenly smoked.

While waiting for the fish, I prepared the smoked chicken, vegetable penne pasta. I drizzled a pan with extra virgin olive oil and sauteed minced garlic and onion on medium heat. I then added some red pepper flakes for some heat. The smoked vegetables went in next and I sauteed them lightly, just enough for them to be coated with the flavored EVOO. I mixed in the diced smoked chicken next, and finally the cooked penne pasta. I added a couple of tablespoons of hot water where the pasta was cooked, seasoned with salt and pepper, added torn fresh basil leaves and a little juice of lemon. I shaked and tossed everything and finally placed them in a big white oval plate. I drizzled more olive oil on top to create a little glaze and more texture to the food.
I made a mayonnaise, dijon mustard, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, grated lemon rind, salt and pepper combination dip which is PERFECT for the fish that I've been waiting to be cooked. And here it is finally (sorry, not a good photo for the fish)...
Did I say a sumptuous BBQ Fest? Oh yes it was indeed. And for every power punch Manny Pacquiao gives off to his foe, a big bite of sausage for me, and for every punch MP gets, a big bite of the savory pork ribs I get. Win or lose, my stomach gets full. Since Manny Pacquiao won his unprecedented 7th title, making him the only boxer to accomplish such feat, it is but fitting for me, my family and friends to be part of history by celebrating with him thru our stomach bursting sunday bbq feast. I can't wait for him to fight again against whomever.. I don't care who... just as long as my drum smoker is up and about, my charcoals ready to burn, and my wood chunks ready to smoke.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My first cook on my UDS.. BBQ baby back ribs, Thai hot chicken wings, stuffed fatty and smoked potatoes

Everything went well with the building of my Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS) and now it's time to test it.

Last saturday, I went to my butcher and picked up the baby back ribs that I ordered from him two days prior. He sold me 3 kilos of beautiful baby back ribs with the spinal bone still intact (usually this bone is cut off when preparing and selling baby back ribs). My butcher impressed me more as he offered me ribs with lots of meat on top, which is not normally done here. See the photo above? You couldn't even see a tinge of any rib bone or as they say, shiner, on it.

I bought some pieces of chicken wings which i plan to bbq and glaze with a hot thai sauce. To further baptize my newly built UDS, I bought a kilo of ground pork to make a home made sausage and stuff it with sauteed carrots and squash, boiled egg, vienna sausage and cheddar cheese. I went to the supermarket and bought the rest of the ingredients and spices that I need for my first weeken bbq on my UDS.

First off was the dry rub. A fellow brethren from bbq-bretheren forum, where I am now a member, gave me a good recipe for a dry rub which I will be applying to the back ribs and fatties. Since ready made dry rubs are not available in all the supermarket shelves (trust me, I've looked everywhere), Michael graciously emailed me the recipe for DR. BBQ'S BIG TIME RUB. And boy, it was really big time because the smell of the mixture of dry spices made my nose tinge with delight!

I washed and cleaned the ribs with cold water and wiped it dry with paper towels. I placed them in a tray, marinated them with unsweetened pineapple juice, covered it with a cling wrap and off to the fridge they went. It was now time for me to prepare my home-made sausage. A kilo of ground pork was mixed with spices like marjoram, sage and dried parsley and together with some other ingredients, I mixed them well using panko breadcrumbs and an egg as a binder. The smell of the sausage permeated around the kitchen. I let it rest for an hour and placed them on a sushi mat covered with a cling wrap and spread it out in a shape of a rectangle.

I thought of our local EMBUTIDO and it struck me that I can adapt the stuffing ingredients to the fatty I'm making. I sauteed garlic, onions, diced carrots and squash and seasoned them with salt and pepper and a bit of dried basil and thyme. After it has been cooled, I spread it out on top of the sausage, added sliced boiled eggs and vienna sausage and sprinkled grated cheddar cheese all over. The sight of it made my stomach grumble already. A western fatty stuffed with ingredients from a local recipe clearly showed that EAST perfectly meets WEST. Like a sushi, I wrapped the sausage fatty with the stuffing and it turned out to be one humongous piece of stuffed sausage, so huge that you have to place it in a tray to carry it well without breaking it apart. There were some excess meat and stuffing so I rolled them into bigger than golf ball size and sprinkled them with panko breadcrumbs. Bbq lovers call them MOINKS (I don't know why they call them as such). I wrapped them in a cling wrap and off they went to the fridge to chill overnight to harden a bit. They will be cooked with a layer of aluminum foil underneath to prevent them from sticking in the grill grates.

I marinated the chicken with a bit of orange juice, sesame oil and soy sauce and placed them in the fridge as well. Seems like I'm on a roll!!! I decided to prepare a creamy coleslaw of cabbage, carrots, raisins and green and red bell peppers. This would make a good side dish for the next day's dinner. All the preparation was done saturday night and I can't wait for Sunday afternoon for my first cook.

After a good night's sleep and a pretty light lunch, I started off with seasoning my drum in preparation for the cooking. I sprayed the inside of the drum with vegetable shortening, placed lump charcoal into my firebox together with a handful of apple wood chips and placed it inside the drum. I used my home-made chimney starter for the first time, added charcoal to it... put some paper at the bottom and at a flick of a lighter there were already burning coals after 10 minutes. I added the burning coals to the firebox filled with unlit charcoals and wood chips. We refer to this process as the MINION METHOD. I closed the drum's lid and in a few minutes I saw the thermometer climbing up to 350 degrees F with 3 intake holes open. What a way to season a drum. I let it stay at that temperature for an hour before I brought it down to 250 degrees F to cook the meat and poultry.

As the drum was seasoning, I finally rubbed the fatty with the dry rub I previously prepared. I patted the baby back ribs with dry paper towels and rubbed prepapred mustard before applying the dry rub. The smell was heaven sent even when it is uncooked. I placed the ribs, chicken wings, fatty, moink and two pieces of potatoes seasoned with salt and pepper inside the drum and started cooking everything at 250 degrees F. I pierced the center of the fatty with the meat probe thermometer and set it at 175 degrees F as the target cooked temperature. Well into the first two hours of the cooking, temperature was still steady at 250 degrees F with the one intake nipple open and the gate valve half open. After 2 hours and 45 minutes, I took out the ribs and wrapped them in 4 individual aluminum foils with unsweetened pineapple juice on it. I placed them back on the drum. The chicken wings and the potatoes were all cooked at the 3 hour mark, the same time the probe thermometer started beeping indicating that the internal temperature of the fatty is at 175 degrees F, meaning it's finally cooked. I took everything out of the drum leaving the foiled ribs behind.

At the 3 1/2 hour mark i removed the wrapped aluminum foils on the ribs, glazed them with the hawaiian sweet sauce that i prepared the night before and placed them back in the drum. Forty five minutes after the baby back ribs are finally cooked! That's a total of 4 hours and 15 minutes of great bbqing.
Here's the plate of my first ever bbq on the UDS. The smell is heavent sent, the taste... ABSOLUTELY YUMMY!!

The amateur photos speak for themselves and the UDS is really a working horse. I'll be cooking again next weekend with my UDS in time for the PACQUIAO-COTTO slugfest. Nothing beats good bbq while watching cable with friends and relatives over bottles of cold beer.

Monday, November 2, 2009

My newly built Ugly Drum Smoker (UDS)

While browsing over the internet and researching for new food recipes that I want to try, I came across a very interesting website, http://www.bbq-brethren.com. As I started reading their lengthy and informative threads about bbq and smoking meats, I was immediately struck with enthusiasm in indulging myself into the world of blue smoke and smoke rings. I joined the forum and registered as a member recently and was in no time welcomed so warmly and hospitably by a lot of my fellow brethren.

I read a detailed 296 page thread in the forum about a UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker). Never in my life have I been so patient in reading a very lengthy thread and it took me 15 days to read everything.. lol. But silly me, I found a 15 page tutorial thread started by Norcoredneck complete with photos and instructions on how to build one. That got me going and I started compiling all the things that I need to build my first ever UDS, from the nuts and bolts, to the 55 gallon drum and the thermometer.

An Ugly Drum Smoker is a very impressive and obviously cheap alternative to commercial smokers being sold in the US. Here in the Philippines, we are only used to seeing simple designs of grills. Those nice looking grills with lids being sold in the home depots are almost always imported, with the Weber brands being the most popular. Since these grills with lids are such expensive cooking equipments, someone with a very clever mind invented a smoker/griller out of a container drum years ago as a cheap and yet more effective way of smoking and bbqing meats and poultry, hence, the birth of the Ugly Drum Smoker. It was labelled as "ugly" since the drum was converted into a smoker with the simplest of designs, no fuss whatsoever, yet its usefulness was so admired by bbq lovers from the US and around the world. And now, it's finally here in the Philippines. I'm very sure that only a "few people" in the country, me included, have built and owned this pretty awesome equipment. I bet some of these owners are American bbq lovers who permanently reside here in our country. I'm very much honored to share this ingenious tool to my fellow filipinos so they can discover a new kind of cuisine/obsession which I'm pretty sure will turn into food addiction.... lol.

So much for that, my blog is getting lengthy and I don't want to bore you with dull introductions. Here it is..... I'm proud to show you my first UDS build...
While cruising along the national highway of Cagayan de Oro City going to Bukidnon, I saw an area at Puerto proper where they sell different kinds of used container drums. They were selling a 55 gallon drum for 500 pesos ( $10.50) including the lid. I bought a nice looking drum that used to contain milk from New Zealand and excitedly brought it home so I can start building my UDS.The drum still has a lining inside and I have to scrape it out and reveal the metal. The bbq-brethren website thread mentioned that the inside lining can be removed by using a weed burner or burning wood inside the drum. I opted to do the latter since I don't have a weed burner on hand. I drilled 4 one inch diameter holes near the bottom of the drum to act as air intakes. This video shows how I burned the inside lining. The ultra high temperature made by the wood fire even burned the outside paint of the drum.

After the drum burn I scraped and washed the drum with a very porous sand paper and Tide detergent inside out. After wiping it dry, I drilled 4 1/4 inch holes about 11 inches from the top of the drum (the drums height is 38 inches). I attached a 1/4 x 1 1/2 inch half thread bolt to each whole that will act as support for the 22 inch diameter grill grate welded out of black iron 1/4 inch diameter round bars. I then attached 3 stainless steel 3/4 inch threaded nipple for the air intake holes and screwed them tight with conduit nuts and washers both inside and outside the drum. I then closed the the nipples with nipple caps. The 4th intake hole was attached with a gate valve for air intake control.

An inch below one of the grill grate support, I drilled 1 3/8 inch hole for the smoker's thermometer. This was a very important step since the thermometer plays a vital role in the long cooking process using the drum. And just above the hole for the grill grate support, I drilled another 1/4 inch hole for the meat probe thermometer to slide in comfortably. This tool will help me in monitoring the temperature of the meat without even opening the drum's lid as this would almost always create an air draft that would spike up the temperature of the drum. As they say in the bbq world, "YOU AIN'T COOKIN' WHEN YOUR LOOKIN'".
The drum lid needed some work as well. I drilled 8 1/2 inch holes around the lid to act as the exhaust. I installed a simple wood handle on top of the lid with 1/4 x 3 inch screws as support. I then salvaged a triangle hinge and attached it to the lid and the side of the drum. To make it work perfectly, I squeezed in a lot of washers for me to tighten the hinge securely to the lid. The lid opened and closed comfortably without any wobble. To carry the drum with much ease, I also attached two wood handles on both sides just like the one on top of the lid.
For me to smoke and bbq properly in my drum, I needed a good sturdy firebox and ash pan where the burning charcoal will be placed inside the drum. I designed a 9 inch tall, 16 inch diameter firebox made out of welded 1/4 inch black iron round bars. It was worth the build as it turned out to be very sturdy. I attached 4 legs made out of 1/2" x 3 1/2" black iron half thread bolts. With a pair of washers for each bolt, it acted as sturdy legs for the firebox comfortably.

So there you go.... my Ugly Drum Smoker!!! I like the color that turned out after the drum was burned and cleaned. I didn't bother spraying some high temperature paint on it since it will defeat the meaning of the UDS... that is.... an UGLY DRUM. It's simple as it is and very very functional... and of course... cheap to build!

My interest in Bbq Smoking

Cooking has been my hobby and passion since I was 16 years old and until now my interest in learning different methods of cooking food to satisfy my palate is as strong as ever. Although our local cuisine can boast of some original palate envy dishes like the sisig (grilled pork face and ears and chicken liver marinated in Philippine lemon with other spices) , chicken inasal (our local version of chicken bbq) and the lechon (roasted whole pig), the culinary culture here in the Philippines has been largely influenced by a variety international cuisines mainly from Spain, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and India to name a few. It wouldn't be too bad if I strive to adapt one more Western cuisine which I am starting to adore, THE AUTHENTIC ALL AMERICAN SMOKED BBQ. I'm starting to believe what traveling chef Anthony Bourdain has declared.... that "BARBECUE IS NOT A CUISINE.... IT'S AN OBSESSION!!"

Filipinos LOVE TO EAT... and I'm not exaggerating. We eat 5 to 6 times a day, from breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack which we avidly call "merienda", dinner and the after-dinner (midnight) snack. That's 3 main meals and 3 snacks, who can beat that... lol!!! And we are not that alien to wood fire roasting and grilling either. Lechon used to be cooked over wood fire up until the popularity of charcoal. We grill almost everything, from meat to downright mussels, oysters and vegetables. And most of all, we filipinos are carnivorous too! Grilling pork belly or any part of the pig and the cow is one of the most exciting scenery in every celebration in the country. Aside from the lechon, the lechon baka (roasted calf) is gaining its own popularity.

It is in this context that I would like to introduce to my fellow food loving carnivorous countrymen the earthly pleasures of BBQ and SMOKED MEATS. I would surmise that most filipinos do not realize that there is a big difference between GRILLING and BARBECUING. We have our own version of our Pork Bbq. But the method of cooking the pork is not bbq, its just plain grilling.

GRILLING is cooking fast, at a high temperature, any cut of meat or poultry, even vegetables! Grilling is when you place your meat or poultry etc. on the cooking surface of a grill (like a gas-powered grill or charcoal) and cook away! Sometimes thin sauces or marinades are applied to the food before or during the cooking process to keep the meat moist because grilling fast at a high heat tends to dry out the meat if you don't. Many people use BBQ sauce for grilling and I think this is why everyone gets so confused about what the difference is between grilling and BBQ. Grilling is also known as DIRECT COOKING - this cooking method involves cooking food directly over the heat source. Recommended for food that requires short cooking times or to sear and lock in the juices before cooking food indirectly.

BBQ is slow cooking for several hours any cuts of meat or poultry over say... wood coals....but the meat is not placed right directly over the coals like in grilling. When BBQing, there is usually a can of water somewhere in the grill to keep a constant humidity level in the cooking area.  Dry rubs made of various herbs and spices are often applied to the meat or mustard- or tomato-based sauces.  However, many BBQers forgo the rubs and sauces and let the woodsmoke flavor the food.  It is not unusual to BBQ meat or poultry for several hours (or even all night!).  You can BBQ a really bad cut of meat and it usually results in a tender, delicious treat that practically falls apart as you eat it.

BBQ is also known as INDIRECT COOKING - When food is cooked away from the direct heat source with the lid closed. This method works well for delicate foods as well as foods that require longer cooking times.

And this method of cooking food is what I intend to share and make known to my fellow bbq lovers here in the Philippines. Cooking the toughest parts of either pork or beef, and even poultry, low and slow (long period of time and under low temperatures usually between 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit) requires a lot of patience but with delicious rewards. I guarantee that bbq addiction is on its way to the minds and palates of filipino bbq lovers.

Here are some photos of food cooked using the indirect cooking method which I downloaded from google. Since I just started indulging with BBQ cooking, I will be posting my own photos of the food that I will be cooking with my newly built UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker) which is an ingenious home-made cooking equipment made out of a 55 gallon drum that cooks food using the indirect cooking method. I will be discussing about my UDS on my next blog. In the meantime, feast your eyes and drool with the photos below....