and finally (recipes)

Ok, this is the last post about the Nocturnal Brew n’ Que at Alvinne. I have had several requests for recipes, so here you go. Recipes for almost everything we served! If you are a homebrewer and would like to look at the recipe we brewed that day, I scaled it down in my previous post.

For European readers 1 cup = 237ml Other useful conversion can be found with this link, or this one

Guacamole:

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • juice of 1 large lime
  • 1/2 – 1 hot red pepper, finely chopped
  • small handful of coriander leaves (cilantro), roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
  • 1/2 small red onion finely chopped

Scoop the flesh out of the avocados and coarsely mash with a fork. To maximize the juice from the lime you should place it on your work surface and push down on it with the palm of your had. Now roll it around while pressing. You can then cut it in half and squeeze out that lovely juice. Mix in the remaining ingredients and serve with tortilla chips. It’s best if you let the quacamole rest in the fridge a couple hours before serving.

Salsa:

  • 1 cup seeded and finely diced tomato
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 hot red pepper
  • juice of 1 large lime
  • small handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons Alvinne Morpheus Tripel
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Mix together, chill for a couple hours. Serve with tortilla chips.

Alvinno Shrimp:

Simply shrimp marinated in 2-3 parts Alvinno, 1 part olive oil and a dash of Piet Huysentruyt honey-mustard seasoning. Marinate for a couple of hours and then impale them on some skewers. Cook over direct heat on your charcoal grill.

Ribs:

marinade:

  • 70% Alvinne Wild (Rodenbach is an easy to find substitute if you can’t get a hold of the Wild)
  • 30% apple juice

rub: (This makes more than you need but you can store it for a long time)

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sweet paprika
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon pilli pilli
  • 3/4 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoons cayenne
  • 1 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

Marinate overnight in the fridge with enough liquid to cover all the ribs (if you marinate the ribs in zip-lock bags you don’t need as much marinade). 45 minutes to an hour before placing in the smoker, remove the ribs from the marinade, pat them dry, liberally cover with your favorite rub and let them come up to room temperature. Smoke between 100-120C (210-250F) till done (around 5 hours) with a combination of cherry and pecan wood chunks. Don’t go too high with the temp because the sugar in the rub will burn.

Mop the ribs with some of the marinade a few times during the cook.

Salmon

Simply brush your salmon filet with olive oil, sprinkle with some dill and slap it on the grill.

Pork loin:

  • 1 well-trimmed pork loin (about 1kg or 2lbs.)

marinade:

  • 1 bottle Alvinne Wild (Rodenbach is an easy to find substitute if you can’t get a hold of the Wild)
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey

rub:

  • see rib rub above or use your favorite spice rub

Marinate the pork loin with the Alvinne Wild, apple juice and honey for 2-3 hours in the fridge. about 30-45 minutes before cooking, take the pork out of the marinade, pat dry, dust it with the rub and let it come up to room temperature. Place in your smoker (or grill set up for indirect cooking) at a temperature of around 120-140C (250-280F) with some Cherry and Pecan wood chunks for that smokey goodness (apple, pear, hickory, cherry, and pecan all work well with this). It should take about 60-75 minutes depending on the size of the loin and the temperature. Use a thermometer and take the pork out of the smoker at 65-67C, loosely cover in foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve with a touch of Honey-mustard Beercream sauce.

Honey-mustard beercream sauce: (this is a bit of an approximation since I usually don’t measure stuff out when I make sauces)

  • 1/2 small yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 bottle Alvinne Wild
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons grain mustard
  • 2 dl  (3/4-1cup) heavy cream
  • thickener if needed

Sautee the onion in the butter until translucent and then add the beer, apple juice and honey (you can use the marinade here but then you will need to skim off the “fatty foam” that will appear during cooking). Cook this down to about half the volume. Addthe mustard and cream and continue cooking for 5-10 minutes. If you desire a thicker sauce then use your tickener of choice (corn starch, maizena, etc.)

Cornbread:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup corn meal
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the butter to a baking dish/pan and set in the oven. In a separate bowl mix the eggs, milk and oil. When ready, add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients and stir together, but don’t over-mix. Just make sure there are no lumps. Take the pan out of the oven and swirl the butter around. Pour the mixture into the hot dish/pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top. Test with a toothpick for doneness.

Coleslaw:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups shredded green cabbage (roughly half a cabbage)
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/4 finely chopped green onion

Mix the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Then mix in the cabbage, carrots and onion. Refridgerate for at least two hours.

Melon Mint and Feta salad:

  • 1/2 each of 3 different melons (watermelon, gavia, and cavaillon were used here)
  • half a small block of feta (roughly 50 grams)
  • a small handfull of fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • dash of pepper

Use a melon baller and scoop out the three melon halves. Break or cut the feta into small bits and add to the melon. Take the mint leaves, stack them, roll into a cigar, finely slice and add to the salad. Just before serving add the oil, vinegar and pepper and toss.

Mocha Bomb Sabayon:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons Imperial stout (Struise Black Damnation Mocha Bomb works great!) but it apparently you have to use beer that is above 10%abv

Simply add all ingredients to a pan. Now comes the hard part. Over a very low fire you need to start whipping the mixture with a whisk. Pretend your life depended on it. Oh, and this will take a while. If you stop too soon then your egg mixture will quickly separate. If you have the fire too high, whisk too slow, or cook too long then you will end up with bits of omlette in your sabayon. If you manage to do that right then serve the creamy smooth and frothy mixture with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This recipe should be good for 4 servings.

If you want to see someone making Sabayon check out this video (ignore the ingredients… just watch the process).

Moink balls à la Alvinne:

Take 1 kg (2.2 lbs) “gehakt met kruiden” (ground veal and pork mixture with some herbs that everyone here uses anytime ground meat is needed) and roll into bite-size balls. Ours were perhaps a bit on the large side. Then wrap each with a strip of proscuitto. Secure with a toothpick. Dust with your favorite spice rub or seasoning (we used the above mentioned rub). Place on the smoker and cook for an hour or so. As with the other dishes, we used Cherry and Pecan wood for the smoke. Lastly slather each one with a good amount of BBQ sauce, jam or jelly and cook for another 15 minutes or so. We sort of threw together our own beer based BBQ sauce but no one remembers what exactly was put into it. The recipe will remain a mystery forever.

the more the merrier – part 1 (smoke)

Friday July 2nd was a busy day for the Smoking Bottle. Picobrouwerij Alvinne was having their first (hopefully annual) Nocturnal Brew Session. 30+ friends were invited to join them while they brew a special night brew, opened up a collection of beer from around the world  and served some tasty BBQ. The reason it was so busy for me is because I was asked to provide the beer based BBQ (and more, but thats for Part 2).

the production line and some chips, salsa and guacamole

The prep/cooking started at 10am up in De Proefzolder (The Tasting Attic). An attic is usually not the best place to be on a very hot day, however we pushed on and proceeded to slice, dice, bake, marinate, mix and clean up before guests started arriving at 6pm. Once they did they found themselves greeted by cold beer and tortilla chips with freshly made Salsa and Guacamole. The salsa was very nice and had a touch of Alvinne Tripel thrown in for an extra twist. The Guacamole was also a hit. I’ve been on a mission lately to show the Belgian folk what guacamole is supposed to look and taste like. The jars of radioactive goo that people buy here is a disgrace. It doesn’t even taste like guacamole. The fresh stuff was almost a revelation for some people.

the "outdoor kitchen" and ribs in the smoker

Next we threw Alvinno and olive oil marinated shrimp onto the grill. The tasty shrimp were able to tide people over until the ribs were ready. Almost as fast as I could get the 15 racks of ribs out of the WSM they disappeared. I barley had a taste of them. To be honest I wasn’t all that happy with them but everyone else seemed to like them quite a bit. I think they needed just a little more time on the smoker and less sugar in the rub.

Abracadavre steaming up the attic and pork smoking up outside

After a great performance by brewery friends Abracadavre it was time to for the main course, smoked pork loins. This is basically my go-to grilling recipe but done on the smoker. After being marinated and then smoked for an hour and a quarter (until 66-67C internal temp) with a combination of Cherry and Pecan wood, the pork was served with a honey-mustard-beer-cream sauce, good old Coleslaw, Cornbread, potatoes, and a melon salad with mint and feta. It all turned out really nice. I heard someone say “I didn’t know barbecue could be so good.” Mission accomplished.

Glenn whipping up some Sabayon and Moink balls doing their thing

To finish all that meat off, Glenn made his world famous Sabayon with De Struise Brouwers Mocha Bomb. Sabayon is one of my absolute favorite deserts and the Mocha Bomb suits it so wonderfully. Excellent stuff! But thats not the end. To further feed our caveman like urge for meat and fire we threw together an interesting “Belgianized” version of Moink balls as a late snack. I think that was around 2am… or was it 3am?

I am certainly not used to cooking for large groups, and I tend to over analyze everything, but at the end of the day it was an enjoyable cooking session with great people. If only my wife and baby girl would have been there then It would have been perfect. Fire-cooked food, great beer and good people… what else do you need?

click on the photos above to see more.

Sorry that this was just a bit of a run down of events, but I will post all the recipes soon. I don’t want to have a 3000 word post… no one wants to read that. I sure ain’t no good writer.

the go-to recipe

While I always like to try out new things there is one dish that gets cooked more than any other… beer and honey marinated Pork Tenderloin. Simple and crowd pleasing.

Grab yourself a good sized pork tenderloin between 700-900g (1.5-2lbs). Smaller is ok if you can’t find a big one. Throw it into a zip-lock bag (a bowl works too but you’ll have to use more marinade). Mix together one bottle of a good dark beer (stay away from anything too bitter) and a couple tablespoons of honey. Add that too the zip-lock bag and chuck it in the fridge for a couple hours, or 45 minutes at room temp if you forgot to plan well (yeah, thats usually the route I take). If you went the cold route then make sure your pork has come back up to room temp before cooking. Set up your grill for indirect cooking. Pull the pork out of the bag and pat dry. Here you can add a dash of rub if you like, or just season with some sea salt and black pepper. Quickly sear the pork loin over the coals and then cook indirect until desired doneness. Depending on the size of the piece the total cook time should be about 35 minutes. Let it rest for 10 minutes under tinfoil before you slice it up.

This works out nicely for hungry groups because you can pack quite a few of these on the grill. You can also really play around with this by switching up the beer you use, adding a rub, mopping during the cook, different type of honey or sugar, or adding a sauce.

Care to share your go-to dish in a comment below?

Barbecook Smoker vs. WSM

Last summer there was a decent amount of traffic coming from people looking for information about the Barbecook smoker, or more importantly comparing the Barbecook Smoker and the Weber Smokey Mountain cooker (WSM). I thought I would finally write a post about this as spring comes around and fire hungry people start contemplating a purchase. Since I have thoroughly used both smokers I’ll try to offer some good comparative information.

price: There is no competition here. The Barbecook smoker retails for 69euros and can sometimes be found for 49euros. The weber retails for 299euros for the 47cm (18″) diameter or 399euros for the 57cm (22.5″) diameter. Clear win for the Barbecook.

assembly: The Barbecook is split up into 4 sections, base, two middle sections and the lid. Assembling the legs, cooking grid hooks, charcoal bowl hooks, handles, vent, and the four hinges on the two doors is a bit of a pain in the ass due to the small size, and high number of nuts and bolts. The original Barbecook smoker had a sort of twist to lock feature that secured the sections together but Barbecook has since replaced this system with some simple clips. A much needed improvement. Moving the smoker with the handles on the side is easy once the sections are locked together.

The WSM is split up into 3 sections, base, middle, and lid. To assemble the WSM you need to attach the three legs to the base and then attach 4 metal straps on the inside of the middle section. This is easliy done in a few minutes. All the bolts are easy to get to and are large enough to handle. The sections just sit on top of each other and do not lock together, and there are no side handles on the unit  so you can not just pick up the smoker and easily move it.

never move either smoker when it is in use!

build quality: The matte-black painted Barbecook Smoker is made from a very thin steel, and is prone to denting. Infact you will most likely dent or bend the sections out-of-round during assembly. The cooking grates are  made from a very small gauge wire and have a cheap looking finish that can scratch off during a good cleaning. After total assembly the unit wobbles quite a bit due to the flimsy leg construction. Most of the nuts and bolts on the unit will quickly rust.

The WSM uses a nice thicker gauge steel with a durable black enamel finish. All of the hardware is rust-resistant, strong and secure. Once the unit is assembled it feels very stable. The Weber is way ahead of the Barbecook in this category.

ease of use: Use of a chimney starter is recommended for getting the Barbecook smoker going. The lit charcoal sits on a grate in the bottom of the charcoal bowl. The only air that can get to the charcoal has to come over the top of the bowl and get sucked underneath the charcoal. Once some ash builds up under the charcoal it starts to choke the fire.  If your cook is under 5 hours or so then you can resonably control the temperature in your Barbecook smoker with the top vent and some good fire tending. If you plan on doing anything longer then you will find yourself in trouble. Unfortunately the Barbecook smoker has no control of the air coming in, only the outgoing smoke on top of the unit. Not the best way to control a fire. Measuring the temperature with the built in thermometer can be a bit misleading. I have seen many reports of the thermometer being way off, 50-100°C!

The WSM also works best when used with a chimney starter. Once the charcoal is started it is pretty easy to maintain the desired temperature by only adjusting the three vents which feed air directly to the charcoal. Under the charcoal there is plenty of room for ash so during a long cook you don’t have to worry about choking your fire. Depending on the type of charcoal you use you should be able to easily get 10-12 hours burn time before needing to add more fuel. On my WSM there is no built in thermometer but on the new models there is one. According to others the thermometer is pretty accurate but could be as far off as 5°C in some cases.

overall: The Weber is hands-down a much beter smoker. It offers great quality and is easy to use. However, it is expensive enough to make you really question purchasing it. The Barbecook Smoker won’t last for years and years but it does work and it won’t hurt your wallet. With some practice and lots of patience you should be able to smoke up some good eats… but you’ll probably have to give up hopes of smoking a whole picnic or butt.

recommendation: If you know that you like smoked food and you are an outdoor cooking nut then the Weber will not disappoint. Ease of use, quality, durability, cooking capacity and flexibility will ensure years of great meals for you and your friends.

If you are not so sure that a smoker will really be something that you’ll enjoy or if you’ll only use it once a year then the Barbecook smoker could be the right choice. It won’t last forever, but if you are careful and patient you can get some good cooks out of it. For those that like to tinker with things, you could easily improve the unit with some careful thought and a trip to the hardware store. You can get inspiration for modding your Barbecook Smoker by checking out the many ECB mods, or Brinkmann mods on the net. The WSM is also prone to be modified by some die-hards, but out of the box it already works wonders.

If you are looking for a bargain and you like to work with your hands you could look into building your own smoker. Its not that difficult. Take a look at Alton Browns smoker. Or for a little more sweat and some grinding you could put together a UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker).

Just remember, smoking is good for you!

Recipe for “A Good Year”

All you need to have a wonderful 2010 is a good recipe. I happen to have one I’d like to share with you. Feel free to make some substitutions, but don’t stray too far from the original recipe:







A Good Year
– 1 good charcoal grill (you can add more if you really like fire)
– 1 or more sources for great craft beer (Oerbier Reserva is a must)
– 1 quality butcher
– a couple of good beer glasses (you don’t need one for every style of beer!)
– a good green grocer with local produce
– local brewery or homebrewer (or your own brewing passion)
– large handful of friends
– patch of green for you and your friends to rub your toes in
– a supportive partner
– A fresh child who is intrigued in everything you do (teenagers may be past their prime)

Simply stir these ingredients together and marinate yourself in the mixture for 365 days. Thats it! The trick with this recipe is balance. You may have to alter the amount of devotion/obsession placed on each of the individual ingredients until a harmonious mixture is obtained. This is something I myself am still working on.

I also threw together some random photos from this past year that were never posted here. You can find them by clicking on the snow covered grills above.

Happy new year everyone!

rub it good

A while back I won a bottle of Yardbird from Noskos over at BBQ NL in a giveaway. Unfortunately I can’t say that I won it in some impressive show of skill, just dumb randomized luck. It was a while until I actually had a chance to try out this rub, and once I did it got lost in the shuffle. Well, I just happened to see the photos from that first cook and thought I would post a quick note.

As stated on the bottle “Created for Chicken, made for Pork” this rub was originally intended for chicken but users quickly found that it works great on pork too. I tried it out on a trimmed up “hammetje” for the first cook. A simple and quick cook. The rub was a smashing success! Good balance of flavors. It is definitely a rub you should pick up if you see it. It is also great since you can cook up a classic duo of ribs and chicken with the same rub and have both turn out fantastic. I’ve done a couple of other quick cooks with this rub but have no photographic evidence, but the results were great each time. Now I need to find a European supplier for Plowboys rubs. I’ve heard wonderful things about their Bovine Bold.

pull my pork!

Good pulled pork has to be one of the most satisfying meat dishes in the world. I often find myself dreaming of those beautiful strands of juicy, smokey pork mixed with bits of spicy “bark.” Beautiful moutainscapes of steaming pulled pork topped with coleslaw snow-caps. A place where North-Carolina style red sauce flows like a river…. mmmmm. After living in North Carolina for a while I really fell in love with pulled pork. Some of my fondest food memories were had in small BBQ shacks around Gastonia and Charlotte. I recommend that every teenager should move to NC for high-school because pulled-pork sandwiches go perfect with reckless-abandon. Ah, those were the days!

I may really love this delicacy but I don’t get to enjoy it very often. Those BBQ-shacks seem to be hiding from me on this side of the ocean. So left with no other choice I set out to make my own. First problem, what the heck do I ask for at the butcher? Cuts of meat are different in pretty much every land. I wanted a Butt (no, it doesn’t come from that end of the pig) but the butcher had no idea what that was. Thankfully Picnic was something that they know here. To my surprise they are typically about 6 kg. Pigs must be bigger here. I thought that was a bit big for my first try, especially since I don’t have a freezer to hold any leftovers. I ended up ordering a nicely trimmed and de-boned half picnic, weighing in at 2.2kg (4.85 lbs.)

For the first cook I decided to pretty much stick to some standard recipes out of Smoke and Spice. It was time to say hello to “the Renowned Mr. Brown.” I slightly altered the Southern Succor rub in the recipe by adding some onion powder and garlic powder.

Brasschaat Succor rub (altered Southern Succor rub recipe):
  • 1/4 cup black pepper (fresh ground)
  • 1/4 cup mild paprika
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

The pork was well rubbed with this mixture and placed in a ziplock bag. He hung out in the fridge overnight with the hops and yeast. The next day I started the fire (Minion method fire with a 3/4 full ring of briquettes) around 8am and took the meat out of the fridge. After another roll around in the rub I let the pig rest until the smoker was up to temp.

The swine went on the smoker at 9:10 am and in typical fashion it started to rain. Not wanting to get too wet, I decided to quickly take the burning smoker apart and move it under the awning at the back door. From there on out it was a pretty simple cook. One of the big questions with this kind of barbecue is, to mop or not? Seeing as I was using the water pan in the smoker with water (as opposed to dry, or with sand or terra-cotta pot coasters as some recommend) I did not need to use a mop to add moisture, but I did want to use it to help add flavor. So I only mopped the meat a few times starting a couple hours into the cook.


mop (altered Southern sop recipe):
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp black pepper (fresh ground)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tbsp cayenne
  • 2 tbsp remaining rub

Since this was a somewhat small hunk of meat by pulled pork standards, I took a rough guess that it would be on the smoker for about 7-8 hours until it reached the magic “pullable” tenderness. Seeing that dinner was planned for 7:30 pm this seemed like ample time. Unfortunately I suck at these types of estimations. As we approached dinner time I ramped up the smoker temperature from the 110-120C range (230-250F) up to the 140-150C range (280-300F) to try to finish the pork faster. After 10.5 hours of cooking I had to take the meat off the smoker.  Now I was aiming for an internal temp of around 87-93C (190-200F), but I had to pull the meat off at 84C (183F). The real test isn’t the internal temp but taking your temp probe or a skewer and seeing that it slides into the meat easily, like butter. Mine was almost right there, but I couldn’t wait another 45 minutes or so. Fortunately the pork did pull apart very nicely and easily.

To accompany the meat I whipped up some coleslaw, some cornbread, and a salad. The coleslaw was also a first for me. I was so used to buying it back in the US that I never bothered trying to make it before. I have to say that is was quite tasty! The cornbread was again baked on the OTP. This time I was able to improve the cooking technique and get a very nice browned top on the cornbread, however the new recipe I tried out was not so great. It was just too darn dense. Next time I will use the recipe I used the first time and just cut back on the sugar… and perhaps use a touch more cornmeal.

Of course I also had to make up some Carolina red sauce. I used the recipe straight from the Smoke & Spice cookbook. I have to say though that I remember most sauces in North Carolina being just a touch thicker and spicier, but that was a long time ago.

The final accent to the meal was a bottle of Hop Nest IPA. The hops were able to cut through the spice, vinegar and smoke and really worked out nicely.

Of course I didn’t take any good photos of the final product, so you’ll have to put up with a slightly blurry photo of some of the leftovers.

All in all I was highly impressed with my new found pork pulling skills (please don’t take that out of context). I think everyone really enjoyed it but the black pepper spice may have been too much for them. The cornbread wasn’t so much of a success. The meat was absolutely fantastic! Super moist, full of smokey flavor, wonderful rich spice notes and melt in your mouth tenderness. I will definitely be cooking up more of this. Once we get a freezer it will be stocked with pulled pork for those times when I have THE craving.

For more photos of the cook click on the photos or here

grillin’ up some cornbread

As any good american does, I crave me some good old cornbread now and then. Unfortunately this fine treat knows no friends here in the old world. Cornmeal is not a common commodity in Belgium. However, a couple weeks ago I bumped into some cornmeal at the supermarket on a shelf of clearance items. Apparently there are not enough Americans on this side of Brasschaat to keep the limited choice of US specific products in rotation. The other Delhaize in town doesn’t seem to suffer this problem as everytime I am there I hear at least two American families. From the clearance shelf I picked up one bag of cornmeal and a couple jars of molasses. The molasses will either finds its way into some cookies or into some beer.

Now I know it’s simple, but I have never made cornbread before so I had to consult the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (We have the newest edition but I wish we had the 1968 version that my mother has. 60’s food photography had a certain something that I find nice, odd but nice). Anyways, the recipe for basic cornbread was very simple:

1 cup flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
2-3 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup cooking oil

cornbread_1_091108Long story short, I threw that all together and poured it into a greased pan. Yes I know, all you cornbread purists are shouting “you have to use a hot skillet you idiot!” Well, simple answer is that I don’t have one (but I do want one). The pan went right in the middle of the cooking grate with the coals stacked up on two sides of the grill. The temp was right around 200C (392F). After about 15 minutes on the grill I started checking with a toothpick to see if it was done. I didn’t keep the time well but I think total cook time was about 20 minutes. I was worried that maybe the sides of the bread that were facing the fire would have over cooked but it ended up with a nice even golden brown on the bottom and sides. Unfortunately, the top of the cornbread did not become nicely golden. I guess, like my first pizza on the grill, I need to get the bread higher into the dome of the kettle where the air is warmer.

Why exactly would you want to do this on the grill?… well, why not? I like the idea of baking with wood or charcoal, it just sounds right to me. It will also be nice to have extra dishes to round out a meal that I can just through on the grill while I’m doing a long cook. Plus, a small touch of smoke can do wonders in baked goods. This time I didn’t use any wood, just neutral coconut briquettes, but I plan on adding a touch of wood next time.

cornbread_2_091108The flavor of the cornbread itself was alright, but could be much better. It definitely wasn’t bad, just a bit mild. The flavor needs to be kicked up a notch next time. The cornbread I know gives you a heart melting dose of american home cooking, this one just taunted me. The amount of cornmeal needs to be kicked up and the sugar kicked down, or out. Maybe I’ll have to try the recipe I saw on the homesick texan (a very delicious source of recipes that I just now discovered). I’ll probably also add about a cup of corn kernels to the batter next time…. and that next time may be very soon… I still have the craving! Oh, and I like my cornbread with hot melted Lee Morgan

duck, duck, beer

luxemburg_roadThis past weekend my extended family in-law took their yearly trip down to a big rental house in the Ardennes. Despite there being 35 in-laws, it is always a good time. A really beautiful area with typical grey stone buildings set amongst green rolling hills. Being november it usually rains most of the time we are there, but in that setting I don’t mind. Mrs. Smoking Bottle thinks its all a big grey depressing mess but I tend to see the pint glass as half full… at least there I do.

Each year I try to plan one thing for the family during our weekend stay. Either a brewery visit or a good charcoal cooked meal. This year I decided on another brewery visit rather than trying to keep an 11 month old girl, who is practicing walking, away from daddy’s fire… and cooking for 30+ people is a lot of work. Also, since the in-laws are wine people, I take it upon myself to try to educate these lost belgian souls about their beer heritage. There are a lot of breweries in Wallonia, unfortunately the area that we visit has fewer options. So far I have taken the in-laws to Achouffe, Fantome and this year Brasserie Les 3 Fourquets.

 

Les 3 Fouquets resides in an inviting old stone farm house in Courtil, about 5km from the Luxemburg border. It was started up by one of the founders of Brasserie D’Achouffe after the sale of that brewery to Duvel Moortgaat (I think thats how it went). The modern shiny brewhouse is quite small and squeezed into one small section of the rather large farm house. The main part of the building usually houses the restaurant and bar. I say usually because they currently have no cook. They plan on re-opening the restaurant again next summer but they need to find a head chef. Currently they produce only one beer, Lupulus, but in the past have dabbled with a few others. You can definitely taste and smell the Achouffe heritage in Lupulus. The brewery began with the Achouffe strain of yeast, but over time the yeast has somewhat mutated (according to Julien, our guide). Cloudy light orange brew with a yeast and citrus nose. Grassy, lightly citrus hop aroma but not aggressive. Pretty well balanced in the mouth with sweet pale malt and enough grassy bitterness to stay interesting and dry enough to be refreshing. I personally think that this would be a brilliant beer if it was around 5-6% ABV instead of the 8.5% it is.

Last year I opted for the cooking route instead of a brewery tour. With the help of one of the uncles, we cooked up duck breasts for 32 people. We didn’t yet have a daughter so we had room to pack up the WSM and take it down to the Ardennes with us. The duck was lightly rubbed with brown-sugar, coarse salt, fresh ground pepper, sage and a dash each of onion powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Sounds like a lot but it was lightly rubbed on. The fillets were placed in the smoker fat side up for just over an hour (till about 115F internal). They were cooked over lump charcoal with a chunk of pearwood and a touch of hickory chips. After being smokedthe meat was thrown fat side down on the gasser and brushed with a glaze made from beer jelly (homemade with some of my homebrew) and butter. Served with cranberry sauce, pears poached Boon kriek and croquettes. We also made a very nice sauce with onion sauteed in some of the trimmed duck fat, some cranberries, a good slosh of Boon kriek and an unhealthy amount of cream. Run through a sieve and lightly drizzled onto the glazed duck breasts.

That was the most meat I have cooked in one time on the WSM. We only served half a breast per person but in order to fit 16 breasts on I had to take a grate from one of my kettles in order to add a third cooking surface in the smoker (on feet made from stainless steel threaded rod and some nuts and washers). That worked well and I had room to spare! I did try to take some photos of the process. Unfortunately while plating up the food for all those people we forgot to snap a photo of the sliced up duck with all the trimmings. Maybe next time. You can see photos of that cook here.