Living the Story: Okra and Tomatoes

Okra and tomatoes go very very well together. Okra by itself tends to be a fibrous vegetable that people mostly fry to avoid cleaning them appropriately. This is sad because Okra is a thickener that can be added to stew and vegetable dishes to thicken the gravy.  If you have a stew that more resemble a soup add Okra and the consistency will return.

1/4 lb Double Smoked Bacon

1 medium White Onion rough chopped

4 cloves garlic rough diced

6 med sized tomatoes blanched. Do NOT use canned.

1/2 cup chicken stock but don’t expect to use much

1 to 1 1/2 cups FRESH okra. Don’t use canned or frozen.

Seasoning

Sea Salt and Coarse Ground Pepper

Saute the bacon set aside

Add Garlic and Onion to the pan saute until golden brown set aside

Drain Oil and add tomatoes let soften, then add stock, season and let simmer for 15 minutes

Clean and cut the Okra. OK Okra is fibrous which makes it an excellent thickener. You have to remove the fuzzy stuff in the middle. Rough chop and add to pan

Cook another 20-30 thirty minutes

Remove from heat let stand 5 minutes and serve.

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Ribs as in @#$$% Good

bbqRibs are the simplest meat to smoke. TV makes them way too complex. A good rack of ribs is easy to prepare.

Pone Daddy’s Ribs

Seasoning:

Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Salt, Pepper(Ground), in equal proportions with Cinnamon, and Chili Powder to taste.

2 Racks of Ribs

9 chunks of wood in equal proportions of Maple, Hickory,  and Oak

Brown Sugar

Butter

BBQ Sauce of your choice

  1. Don’t skimp on the ribs! You are going to be cooking these suckers for 6 hours at a low temperature. Now is not the time to buy the rack in the butcher’s bargain fridge. You want meaty ribs with marbling. Remember fat is your friend in moderation.
  2. This is not enough fat and not good for smoking.

raw rib

3. This is the right amount of fat and meat. You need substance to win at smoking.

4. Set the internal temperature of your smoker at 225 degrees. You will need an oven thermometer. Allow the smoker to get to temperature first. DO NOT OPEN!!

5. Ribs need chunks and for great ribs, a 3 chunk combo of Maple, Hickory, and Oak is the optimal blend. It will give a moderate smoking that will go through the meat and create that smoke ring that demonstrates the cooking process went well. Yet it will also give that nutty brown exterior as well. Put the wood in the tray. Better yet, use an old cast iron pan at the bottom. Also, include a baking pan with water filled to the brim. Water vapor helps the smoke to move through the pit efficiently.  Do not open or add meat until the heavy smoke has stopped and you have a nice clear smoke this is critical because using the heavy smoke can turn meat acrid unless you know how to use it.

6. Liberally season the ribs and then place the ribs on the racks in the smoker close it and leave it alone for the next 3 hours. Don’t peek! Don’t show off for your father in law! Just leave it alone.

7. At hour 3 quickly check the ribs and the temperature. Add additional chunks of would in the same formula and close it.

8. At hour 5.5 remove the ribs! Place them on foil, massage with butter (Not margarine!!), sprinkle with brown sugar, wrap them in the foil and replace in the smoker.

9. Smoke another 30- 45 minutes.

10. Remove the ribs from the smoker and the tin foil let them sit on a counter for 15-20 minutes at least. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!! You have already spent this much time why dry out your meat now by cutting it!

11. Optional: On a smoky grill finish the ribs by saucing with a shredded rag or a BBQ mop. No more than a minute or two to set the sauce.

EAT and Enjoy!!

Rock Your BBQ this Summer with 6 Easy Tips!

bbq

Ok, folks, the process of good BBQ is equipment, fuel, time, cutting, seasoning, and PATIENCE. Most people who fail screw up in one of these areas. So let’s get this right and focus on each area.

Equipment

Now I am a heretic here. For the average person, an electric smoker bought at your local hardware store or a basic cheap propane smoker is all you need. There are people who spend thousands of dollars for their equipment. I am telling you don’t fall into the trap. Spend $150 – $200 dollars and get a basic model. What IS KEY is to get the right sized smoker. If you have one big party a year, rent a larger smoker. But, if you typically only feed 5-6 people or less go with a regular sized smoker. Why? Size matters in this case. Your goal is a consistent temperature and smoke disbursement. Have you ever had meat that looked great but no smoke ring or taste? That is using the wrong smoker.

Fuel

OK, we have already made it simple by getting away from the offset smoker and using a propane or electric smoker. So we have a consistent temperature. But we need wood to smoke with. There three types of wood product that can work here. The first is wood chunks. These work better in propane smokers because it puts energy in the form of a flame source over the wood which smolders the wood. More on smoldering later. The second type of wood source is wood chips. Wood chips need to be soaked in water. But the advantage is they burn faster and you can add spices to the smoke box{the box you put the chips or pellets in over the fire}.  Finally, there are pellets which are compressed wood dust. Burns hot and fast but the smoke is consistent.

Now there are pellet and chip boxes.  They heat up causing the wood to smolder thus smoking the meat!! Chunks are however the preferred method of smoking most meats. First, you have to open the smoker less and they less you open the smoker the better to maintain temperature. Second, you get a slow consistent smoke that fully penetrates the meats. Finally, it’s easier to play with the flavor profile by adding say a small piece of Applewood (which is very intense) with a larger piece of Oak (a milder profile) to give meats unique flavors. So that flavor at your favorite BBQ joint that you have never been able to get elsewhere. That is on purpose and now you know why.

Cutting

Cutting is more critical in many ways than the quality of the meat. It’s not about cutting all the fat off. NO NO NO. Fat is flavor. But DENSE fat goes. And you have to keep a cap of fat to render through the meat. This means the fat melts and seeps into the meat making it tender and adding flavor. This why you season the fat caps well to ensure that it gets deep into the meat. Removing silver skin,(that layer of skin like cartilage on the back of ribs for example) can get the seasoning into the meat from both sides.  Aaron Franklin from Franklin BBQ explains this concept on Beef Brisket. Trust me cutting is more important that anything. Get it wrong and your food will suck no matter if you get the other steps right.

 

Seasoning

Seasoning should be thought through. If in doubt cover with salt and pepper and leave it alone. Now you can buy a seasoning. That is nice but its NOT YOU! Seasoning should reflect your taste, (literally) and your creativity. I always recommend trying your blend on a chicken breast or burger before you go for the ribs. Salt, brown sugar, and pepper should be the base of any seasoning blend. I am partial to sugar because its the ingredient that most restaurants add outside of salt and pepper to make food pop! Once you have your base you have to determine if your goal is sweet, spicy, or savory. If the goal is sweet considered sweet peppers, cinnamon, sweet basil high content herbs, and peppers. For spicey, consider dried peppers but be careful. This is not the time to use Ghost Peppers! Peppers potency is in the seeds so a powerful pepper can overpower the who concoction. For spicy blends, oregano, garlic, white onions, you want spicy, not painful. For savory, basically, consider any most garden herbs. Strongly consider using tasting before you ruin that beef.

Time and Patience

BBQ takes time and patience. Unless you are grilling the bulk of cooking takes place between 225 degrees and 300 degrees. Always consider the lower temps first because fat renders over time. So for ribs, chicken, brisket, and sausage consider a minimum of 6 hours. Minimum!! The rule for quality BBQ is low and slow. Don’t panic, good BBQ takes time.

Ok, these are the basics. Over the next several posts we are going to apply these concepts to common foods that go wrong at BBQ’s. You will rock your summer!!

Living the Story: BBQ the Primer

Many people love to cook outside. The sunny sky. The cold brew and burgers burning…literally burning 6 minutes a side buddy! Now there is grilling and that is nice if you just want to attempt to eat something and then there is BBQ. There is a difference.

In slave times pit masters were often slaves themselves and those early creatives forged what today is considered … Witchcraft? No! Not Witchcraft but a formula for success that yes you can achieve as well.

Now I can’t talk about the modern interpretation of Slave BBQ process without introducing you to Michael Twitty. He is a history interpreter at Gunston Hall in Mason Neck, Virginia. He is also a writer, author and tv contributor. But most importantly a BBQ specialist. Rather than write I have appended a video introducing him to you. The next few posts will focus on BBQ process from the slave era and I will move to the modern era to help you the home cook get really good results. Yes, you!!

Living the Story: Hoecakes…

 

 

 

Hoecake

Hoecakes were (enjoyed?) by both slaves and slave masters alike. Afroculinaria referred to a story of how George Washington enjoy his Hoecakes with honey. This is an extremely simple recipe that can be easily modified to be sweet or savory.  Now I didn’t notice any difference using cold water versus hot water if air was beaten into the mixture. But I like fried bread a little dense.

1 cup of white stone-ground cornmeal

3/4 cup of boiling hot water

½ teaspoon of salt

¼ cup of lard, vegetable oil or shortening

Mix Cornmeal and Salt with boiling water and let sit. Melt the fat in a cast iron pan.(This matters because for some reason the smoke point is lower for some reason) Taking a spoonful of the batter drop into the fat and fry until light and golden brown.

Living the Story: Sally Dough Cake

Cakes are God’s laugh in physical form. Cakes come in a variety of flavors, densities, and styles.  The Sally Dough Cake is unique in that its a cake but not the really sweet variety that Americans have come to expect with a thick frosting or ganache on top. Rather, this recipe lets the cake do the talking.  Sweetness has changed over time, and I am beginning to think not for the good.

Sally Dough Cake

3 cups sugar

1 cup yeast (yes…1 cup!! I am thinking that they are using a starter here. No instant yeast back then!)

3 cups sweet milk

3 eggs

Combine and mix to a thin batter and leave overnight in the fridge. (the original does not state this but…Salmonella) The next day:

1 cup butter

Flour enough to make a stiff batter

Combine the butter and flour with the contents from the prior day and set aside for a second rising. Place in well a greased pan and rise a THIRD TIME! Bake in a slow oven.

Living the Story: Salt Rising Bread

 

salt rising breadMalinda Russell produced one of the first cookbooks curated by an African American in America. In “A Domestic Cookbook” She provides many baking recipes that will be featured throughout the book primarily because of how simple they are to produce great results. The first of these is Salt Rising Bread.

Salt Rising Bread

  • Half Pint Warm Water
  • Pinch Salt

Stir to a thick batter and keep warm as it rises; to one pint of this add:

  • 3 pints warm water
  • A little salt
  • A Small piece of Lard

Knead the dough until smooth and form into rolls and proceed to a second rising keeping the dough warm. Bake quick but do not scorch.