Friday, August 29, 2008

Curry for Breakfast - Khima and Eggs

Khima and Eggs

I don't know why we've never thought of having curry for breakfast before. After all, we love the bold flavors of Mexican food for breakfast.

It turns out that the spicy complexity of leftover curry makes a perfect complement to eggs. This time, our curry was Khima, and we poached the eggs in it - much like making Eggs in Purgatory.

Khima and Eggs

The curry itself was a new one for us. Khima (or Kheema, Keema or Qeema), is a minced meat dish - generally made with lamb. The recipe comes from My Bombay Kitchen, a book of Parsi recipes we have been cooking out of lately. The style is quite different from the more Balti-inspired curries we became accustomed to while living in the UK.

Here is the Khima as it was in its non-leftover state:


Even after using it for breakfast, we still had some extra. It worked very well as a topping for a grilled pizza:

Khima Grilled Pizza

Unfortunately, we're out of leftovers now, but I'm thinking that next time it will make a great base for a spiced-up shepherd's pie...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Homemade Bacon

Homemade Bacon

Shortly after getting our smoker, we came to a very important realization - now we can make bacon!

Much like making homemade pancetta, bacon begins with pork belly. This time we got some from our local butcher, but we've also had success finding it in Asian markets.

Pork Belly

Once you have a suitable chunk of belly, the first step in the bacon-making process is to cure the meat. We did a cure based on the savory bacon recipe from Charcuterie.

The basic dry cure is simply kosher salt, sugar, and pink salt (in a ratio of 2:1:1/8th by weight). To that we added cracked black peppercorns, crumbled bay leaves and smashed garlic, plus just a touch of extra brown sugar. For this size belly (3 lb.) it only takes about a 1/4 cup of the mixture sprinkled all over to do the trick:

Pork Belly at the start of curing

After a week in the refrigerator, the curing was finished and it was time to put it on the smoker:

Bacon on the smoker

We smoked it with apple wood to an internal temperature just under 140. It took about 5 1/2 hours. With bacon - just like Andouille - pink salt in the cure helps keep the meat safe during the long, low-temperature cooking session. Here it is hot off the smoker:


An extra bonus when making your own bacon is the skin - we saved it to add smoky flavor to future soups and stews. Cutting off the skin is easier to do when it is still warm.

Cutting the skin off of the bacon

Hand sliced, thick cut bacon. It would be easier to do if we had a commercial meat slicer, but there is something nice about cutting carefully through the slab to create each unique strip.


And the payoff - the first BLT:

BLT Sandwich

We are definitely converts - we won't be buying bacon again...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Corn = Summer

Chile-Rubbed Grilled Corn

We've been getting fantastic corn from the PB farmers market recently. When corn is at its best, it really doesn't matter what you have with it - the corn is the star of the show. The other day we rubbed a few ears with chile and cooked them on the grill. Simple, but perfect.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Smoked Andouille

Smoked Andouille

After an impromptu trial run, our brand-new Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) was ready for some real action. But what to smoke? Pork Butt? Ribs? Chicken? Brisket? If you check out the discussion forums on The Virtual Weber Bullet website, those are all typical choices. But apparently, we aren't "typical". We wanted Andouille Sausage!

We haven't been super happy with the Andouille we've been able to get here in San Diego. It has had more emphasis on heat, rather than the super smokey, ham-y goodness that we experienced in New Orleans. We decided it would be a good thing to try to make our own.

For this batch we followed the Hot Smoked Andouille recipe from Charcuterie pretty much unaltered. Here are the spices getting mixed in:

Smoked Andouille

This version of Andouille includes pork shoulder meat seasoned with a fair amount of fresh onion and garlic, plus just a little cayenne, thyme, mace, clove, allspice and dry mustard. The procedure is basically the same as for making Italian Sausages, except that the meat mixture gets put through a smaller die giving it a finer texture.

After stuffing the mixture into casings, we improvised a drying rack in our dining room by cutting a bit of wooden trim to an appropriate length and suspending it between a couple of chairs. The sausages were hung for about 2 hours to dry - smoke adheres better if the casing is dry and a little tacky:

Smoked Andouille

To hang the sausages in the smoker, I turned the top rack over so the handles were underneath the grill, and suspended the sausages between the handles. Not the most elegant method, but it worked well.

Smoked Andouille

I used Pecan as the smoking wood and tried to keep the fire low and slow. These kind of sausages can be a little tricky since you want them fully cooked (hot smoked), but you do *not* want the fat to heat up so much that it melts away. Fortunately, I managed to keep the smoker temperature under 200°F for just under 4 hours, cooking the sausage to a final temp of 150°F.

Just out of the smoker:

Smoked Andouille

And the final result:

Smoked Andouille

We couldn't be happier with how these guys turned out. They taste fantastic. I think there is going to be some pretty nice gumbo in our future...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker

Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker

Behold the latest object of our affection - the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. Inspired by the amazing barbecue we had on our road trip, we decided that we had to have a smoker. Initially we considered purchasing an electric version since they're reliable and ultra simple to operate. But that seemed boring. What fun is cooking with smoke if there's no fire?

We are definitely in love with this little guy. The first day we had it, we did a trial run. We smoked some tomatoes and some portobello mushrooms. They came out great, but the real star of the show was a piece of flank steak we got from Brandt Beef at the PB farmers market:

Smoked Flank Steak


Monday, August 11, 2008

Last Stop - Liars' Club Alpine Tavern and Alpine Beer Company

Alpine Duet at the Liars' Club

It took a road trip all the way to the East Coast and back to get us out to the new Liars' Club location in Alpine. There has been a hole in our hearts ever since the original Liar's Club in Mission Beach closed, so it was good to finally see the new digs.

The Liars' Club Alpine Tavern

The tap lineup is as great as ever (we had a couple of pints of Alpine Duet), as is the food (we had the steak salad). Otherwise, though it isn't the same. Good beer bar, but it just isn't the Liars' Club anymore...

Still, the locals in Alpine have it pretty good these days. In addition to Liars', they have Alpine Beer Company just down the road. Alpine is our favorite local brewery - which is saying something given the other great options in San Diego.

Alpine Beer Company

It is also hard to beat Alpine's prices - less than $9 for a growler refill of Duet is an absolute steal. Unfortunately, all of our growlers were at home (note to self: when heading out east, always take growlers!) and we didn't want to add to the already large collection, so we just picked up a couple of bottles of Pure Hoppiness.

Inside Alpine Beer Company

The Liar's Club
2806 Alpine Blvd.
Alpine, California
(619) 722-6549

Alpine Beer Company
2351 Alpine Blvd.
Alpine, California
(619) 445-2337‎

Sunday, August 10, 2008

More Green Chile In Albuquerque - Breakfast At Frontier Restaurant

Frontier in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Looking for a hearty, old-school New Mexican breakfast to fuel a long drive west, we stopped in at Frontier Restaurant. Located just across the street from the University of New Mexico campus, Frontier has been serving up Southwestern fare since 1971.

Menu at Frontier

When you get up to order, you'd better know what you want. Frontier is a surprisingly large place and serves a lot of people quickly.

I knew exactly what I wanted - a breakfast burrito smothered in green chile. You order the green chile as a side dish (it is listed as "green chile stew"):

Green Chile at Frontier

Green Chile Breakfast Burrito in construction:

Adding Green Chile to a Breakfast Burrito at Frontier

And the final product:

Green Chile Breakfast Burrito at Frontier

Attractive? Not so much. Tasty? Absolutely! Not tasty enough to make me forget about Sam's #3 in Denver, but still pretty good.

Wanting to add a little color contrast to our meal, Sherry ordered chicken enchiladas with red sauce. Definitely prettier than my burrito, but the flavors were pretty uninteresting (improved, though, by the addition of some of the green chile stew).

Chicken Enchiladas at Frontier

So, just a brief stop in New Mexico. Not nearly enough time to do the fantastic food in the area justice, but at least we managed to get our green chile fix.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Green Chile Cheeseburgers at Blake's Lotaburger

Green Chile Double-Cheesburger at Lotaburger

As we passed through Albuquerque on our way back home, our main mission was to get a green chile cheeseburger. But where? We ended up settling on Blake's Lotaburger. With 78 stores, Lotaburger is hardly a mom and pop operation, but the locations are all in the Albuquerque area.

Blake's Lotaburger in Albuquerque, New Mexico

There is no green chile cheesburger on the menu - you order the green chile as an extra item. I love New Mexican green chiles - there is something almost addictive about their combination of flavor and heat.

My double burger (pictured at the top of the post) was great, but Sherry's single was even better. It had the same amount of green chile but less meat, resulting in a more intense chile experience.

Green Chile Cheeseburger at Lotaburger

To complement our chile, we also had some chili. Chili-cheese fries, that is...

Chili-Cheese Fries at Lotaburger

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

STAX Museum of American Soul Music and the National Civil Rights Museum

East McLemore Ave.

So, what's so special about McLemore Avenue? Well, aside from being the name of an album by Booker T. & the MGs, it is also the heart of Soulsville USA. It is where, for a magical period during the 60's and 70's STAX Records made music.

STAX Museum Of American Soul Music in Memphis, Tennessee

The studio closed in the late 70's and the building was torn down sometime later. Its influence on the music world lived on, however, and recently the site became home to the STAX Museum of American Soul Music.

We spent several hours wandering through a fantastic retrospective of the label that gave the world artists suchs as Sam and Dave, the Staples Singers, Albert King, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. & the MGs, and Otis Redding.

STAX Museum Of American Soul Music in Memphis, Tennessee

Another museum not to be missed when visiting Memphis is the National Civil Rights Museum. It is located in the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. The outside of the motel has been left as it was, but the interior has been completely redone to create the museum.

Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee

Going through the museum is a fascinating, sobering experience. It is hard to believe that the fight for civil rights in the United States prompted so much conflict. And even harder to believe that so much of it took place less than 50 years ago.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Room at the Lorraine Motel

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ribs In Memphis - Central BBQ and The Bar-B-Q Shop

Ribs at Central BBQ

At long last, our first ribs of the trip. While ribs had been available at other places, Memphis was our first stop where they were the main event.

The slab pictured above came from Central BBQ. It was kind of a strange place compared to other barbecue places we had visited on the trip - very much a college atmosphere, with employees wearing matching tie-dyed t-shirts.

Central BBQ in Memphis, Tennessee

But what about the ribs? As you can see, we had no trouble plowing through them:

Ribs at Central BBQ

They were good, but not eye-opening "this is Memphis" good. Maybe a little overcooked - they came off of the bone a bit too easily. They were also on the small side, and not super meaty.

Of course we weren't going to judge Memphis ribs by just one stop. Next up was The Bar-B-Q Shop:

The Bar-B-Q Shop in Memphis, Tennessee

It was July 4th, and the place was packed with people waiting for take-out orders. They were putting out a serious amount of barbecue, as almost every person walked out with a big box.

Waiting for Take-Out at The Bar-B-Q Shop

And the ribs? Take a look at that pink color and you know they've seen some smoke. They came sauced even though we ordered them dry, but with the place as busy as it was we weren't going to send them back.

Ribs at The Bar-B-Q Shop

Turns out, keeping them was the right thing to do. They were absolute perfection. The meat had an amazing smokey taste and was perfectly cooked: nice and moist, but still with enough backbone to give you something to gnaw on.

Ribs in Memphis on the 4th of July - it doesn't get much better than that...

Central BBQ
2249 Central Ave.
Memphis, Tennessee
(901) 272-9377‎

The Bar-B-Q Shop
1782 Madison Ave.
Memphis, Tennessee
(901) 272-1277‎